Microbial diversity and the “lower-limit” problem of biodiversity

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Biology & Philosophy, ISSN: 0169-3867, Vol: 28, Issue: 2, Page: 219-239

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Malaterre, Christophe
Springer Nature; Springer
Arts and Humanities; Agricultural and Biological Sciences
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article description
Science is now studying biodiversity on a massive scale. These studies are occurring not just at the scale of larger plants and animals, but also at the scale of minute entities such as bacteria and viruses. This expansion has led to the development of a specific sub-field of "microbial diversity". In this paper, I investigate how microbial diversity faces two of the classical issues encountered by the concept of "biodiversity": the issues of defining the units of biodiversity and of choosing a mathematicalmeasure of diversity. I also show that the extension of the scope of biodiversity to microbial entities such as viruses and many other not-clearly-alive entities raises yet another foundational issue: that of defining a "lower-limit" of biodiversity. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.