New book explores the causes and consequences of our biodiversity crisis

A University of Plymouth academic has published a new book highlighting the grave challenges facing global biodiversity and the actions which need to be taken to preserve it.

Writing in Biodiversity: A Beginner’s Guide, Professor of Marine Zoology John Spicer describes biodiversity as “the variety of life – in all its manifestations”.

However, he says all of that life is under considerable threat from factors ranging from population explosions and habitat destruction, to climate change and mass extinctions.

On a more positive note, he also says that the last year of responding to COVID-19 has shown us that the transformative change is possible.

He also believes that the public appetite for global climate action, which had grown considerably before the COVID-19 pandemic, has the potential to be the catalyst for global change required to avert a prolonged biodiversity crisis.

Published by Oneworld, Biodiversity: A Beginner’s Guide is a revised and updated edition of a book written by Professor Spicer and released in 2006.

One of the few introductory books on the subject aimed at the general reader, it now includes a new section on the Anthropocene and its impact, and is thoroughly updated with research carried out in the 15 years since the original was published.

Professor Spicer says the question is not ‘can we change’ but ‘do we believe we can’ and ‘do we really want to’. He also feels now is the time to act in a year which sees the G7 and COP26 climate change meetings taking place here in the UK, and the launch of the UN Decade of the Oceans. He said:

“More and more, it is becoming clear that no matter who you are, biodiversity matters. Literally your life depends on it. And that’s why it’s worth knowing about. We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. We cannot avert that crisis. But we can do something.

Professor John Spicer collecting intertidal amphipods from South Cove (photo credit: Simon Morley)

Professor John Spicer collecting intertidal amphipods from South Cove (photo credit: Simon Morley)

“COVID-19 has taught us that the transformative change, the sort of change that seemed a pipe dream just a year ago, is both needed and, more importantly, still possible at this stage in our biodiversity crisis.
“This book is an introduction to what we have, why we should value it, and what we lose unless we address our biodiversity crisis. But more than that it highlights the real possibility of transformative change, and I hope reflects the appetite for such change that seems to be emerging locally and globally even in these, still difficult, times.”

Professor Spicer is a world-renowned expert on the effects of climate change on marine organisms, having been working in the field for more than 30 years

Much of that time has been spent at the University of Plymouth, which was recently named the best university globally for its marine research and teaching in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021.

His work has included high-profile studies showing that the decline in ocean pH, and oxygen in particular, pose new threats to marine life, but has recently shown – with research published last year repeating a century-old study – that there are glimmers of hope for some species that may be able to evolve and adapt to rapid climate change.

Biodiversity: A Beginner’s Guide (revised and updated edition) by John Spicer is published by Oneworld, paperback £9.99.

Quotes about Biodiversity: A Beginner’s Guide (first edition)

“If you have any doubts about the meaning of the term biodiversity or its importance to the world here is a book that explains it in an interesting and accessible way and challenges us to protect it better” – Professor Sir Ghillean Prance FRS, VMH, Scientific Director of the Eden Project.
“A stimulating, authoritative and deeply rewarding read that makes you think about the natural world in a novel way” – Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf, former executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
“This is science for the general reader at its very best – clear, committed, fascinating and laser-focused on the crisis we face” – Randal Keynes, great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin and author of Creation: The True Story of Charles Darwin.

Exploring the effects of climate change on marine organisms

Over the last 50 years, the oxygen in our oceans has decreased by around 2–5% and this is already having an effect on species’ ability to function. This is obviously a major cause for concern

Read more about Professor John Spicer's work

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