A description of floral diversity in the southern Appalachians with forest management considerations for conservation
Brown, Maryfrances McGrath
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Biological diversity is the variety of plant and animal life, habitats and ecosystems, and the biological processes and functions within them. It is this simple yet profoundly important concept in biology which in recent years has become an issue of great concern to the lay public and scientific community alike. The cause for this concern lies in the current rapid destruction and transformation of many ecosystems worldwide. From temperate and tropical rain forests to coral reefs, the loss of habitat due to the pressures of an expanding human population threatens the existence of numerous species of plants and animals. It is suspected that thousands of species of plants and animals are being lost before ever being described, let alone tested for their usefulness as medicines or crops (Wilson 1988). Over 25% of prescription drugs available today contain active compounds that are extracted directly from plants (Ledig 1988). In addition, the cross breeding of domesticated crop species with wild relatives has resulted in improved disease resistance in crops such as barley, rice, cassava, sugarcane, and com (Plotkin 1986). Thus, the loss of habitat and the possible extirpation or extinction of plant and animal species may mean the loss of potential life-saving drugs and crop-enhancing wild relatives.
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