Daniel P. Faith
(The Australian Museum, Australia)
Dan Faith received a BA in mathematics from University of Chicago and a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Stony Brook University. His research at the Australian Museum integrates biodiversity and systematics, and covers both theory and applications of quantitative biodiversity assessment. This work extends from the scale of genes to whole countries. Special emphasis has been given to the best-possible use of Museum collections in regional biodiversity assessment, and to the links from biodiversity assessment to evosystem and ecosystem services, sustainability, and economics. Dan Faith’s research continues to focus on investigations of "phylogenetic diversity" (PD) and conservation. Dan was a Coordinating Lead Author for biodiversity for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and currently co-leads bioGENESIS, a core project within DIVERSITAS promoting evolution and systematics in biodiversity science. Dan also is involved in GEO BON, the emerging global biodiversity observation network. Other work in phylogenetics and biodiversity conservation includes development and application of phylogenetic methods, philosophy of science, and editorial work for Systematic Biology and Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
Phylogeny and the sustainable use of biodiversity
The ATBC-2012 meeting's thematic focus on sustainable use of biodiversity echoes the increased international attention to sustainable use problems. Examples include IPBES (the inter-governmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services) and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s new 2020 biodiversity targets. Within DIVERSITAS (the international program for multidisciplinary biodiversity research), a core project “bioGENESIS” promotes the important roles of evolutionary biology in achieving conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Through bioGENESIS, we have explored the idea of evolutionary or “evosystem” services. Some services have been provided through evolution operating in the past, and a phylogenetic diversity measure, PD, can help us to quantify these current and potential future benefits derived from the tree of life. Effective sustainable use programs therefore should conserve overall phylogenetic diversity, in addition to the conventional focus on preserving species with known current benefits.
Programs that try to justify biodiversity conservation and sustainable use based only on currently-perceived benefits may fail to effectively preserve future benefits. Recent work has demonstrated that a focus on conservation of currently recognised benefits (such as well-known ecosystem services) can mean a dramatic loss in the capacity for conservation of broader biodiversity values. Avoiding such undesirable “tipping points” may require balancing the conservation of currently-valued species and the conservation of overall phylogenetic diversity (PD). In this way, true “sustainable use” will preserve not only known uses but also the sustained capacity to find other uses, in other species.
Brazil may provide good examples of successful phylogenetically-based sustainable use programs. The Biota-FAPESP Bioprospecta program makes effective use of phylogenies in identifying species with potential biologically active compounds. BIOTA programs may complement these efforts by also conserving overall phylogenetic diversity in the region – so achieving the goal of “sustainable use” by keeping options open for future discovery of useful products in other species.