Biodiversity and Biocollections: Problem of Correspondence

In Aspects of Biodiversity. KMK Sci Press. pp. 733-786 (2016)
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This text is an English translation of those several sections of the original paper in Russian, where collection-related issues are considered. The full citation of the original paper is as following: Pavlinov I.Ya. 2016. [Bioraznoobrazie i biokollektsii: problema sootvetstvia]. In: Pavlinov I.Ya. (comp.). Aspects of Biodiversity. Archives of Zoological Museum of Lomonosov Moscow State University, Vol. 54, Pр. 733–786. Orientation of biology, as a natural science, on the study and explanation of the similarities and differences between organisms led in the second half of the 20th century to the recognition of a specifi c subject area of biological explorations, viz. biodiversity (BD). One of the important general scientifi c prerequisites for this shift was understanding that (at the level of ontology) the structured diversity of the living nature is its fundamental property equivocal to subjecting of some of its manifestations to certain laws. At the level of epistemology, this led to acknowledging that the “diversifi cationary” approach to description of the living beings is as justifi able as the before dominated “unifi cationary” one. This general trend has led to a signifi cant increase in the attention to BD. From a pragmatic perspective, its leitmotif was conservation of BD as a renewable resource, while from a scientifi c perspective the leitmotif was studying it was studying BD as a specifi c natural phenomenon. These two points of view are united by recognition of the need for scientific substantiation of BD conservation strategy, which implies the need for a detailed study of BD itself. At the level of ontology, one of the key problems in the study of BD (leaving aside the question of its genesis) is determination of its structure, which is interpreted as a manifestation of the structure of the Earth’s biota itself. With this, it is acknowledged that the subject area of empirical explorations is not the BD as a whole ( “Umgebung”) but its particular manifestations (“Umwelts”). It is proposed herewith to recognized, within the latter: fragments of BD (especially taxa and ecosystems), hierarchical levels of BD (primarily within- and interorganismal ones), and aspects of BD (before all taxonomic and meronomic ones). Attention is drawn to a new interpretation of bioinformatics as a discipline that studies the information support of BD explorations. An important fraction of this support are biocollections. The scientifi c value of collections means that they make it possible both empirical inferring and testing (verification) of the knowledge about BD. This makes biocollections, in their epistemological status, equivalent to experiments, and so makes studies of BD quite scientific. It is emphasized that the natural objects (naturalia), which are permanently kept in collections, contain primary (objective) information about BD, while information retrieved somehow from them is a secondary (subjective) one. Collection, as an information resource, serves as a research sample in the studies of BD. Collection pool, as the totality of all collection materials kept in repositories according to certain standards, can be treated as a general sample, and every single collection as a local sample. The main characteristic of collection-as-sample is its representativeness; so the basic strategy of development of the collection pool is to maximize its representativeness as a means to ensure correspondence of structure of biocollection pool to that of BD itself. The most fundamental characteristic of collection, as an information resource, is its scientific signifi cance. The following three main groups of more particular characteristics are distinguished: — the “proper” characteristics of every collection are its meaningfulness, informativeness, reliability, adequacy, documenting, systematicity, volume, structure, uniqueness, stability, lability; — the “external” characteristics of collection are resolution, usability, ethic constituent; — the “service” characteristics of collection are its museofication, storage system security, inclusion in metastructure, cost. In the contemporary world, development of the biocollection pool, as a specific resource for BD research, requires considerable organizational efforts, including work on their “information support” aimed at demonstrating the necessity of existence of the biocollections.
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