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American TropicsThe Caribbean Roots of Biodiversity Science$
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Megan Raby

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469635606

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469635606.001.0001

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From Tropicality to Biodiversity

From Tropicality to Biodiversity

(p.1) Introduction From Tropicality to Biodiversity
American Tropics

Megan Raby

University of North Carolina Press

Consciousness of tropical biodiversity exploded onto the scene in the 1980s following the 1986 National Forum on BioDiversity. Biodiversity was not a new concept to biologists, however. U.S. scientists’ engagement with life in the tropics already stretched back a century. During this time, scientists had struggled with questions of the biological differences of the tropics—especially its richness in species—and at the same time entangled themselves in U.S. corporate and government efforts to exploit tropical resources. American Tropics argues that both the key scientific concepts and the values embedded in the modern biodiversity discourse had significant precedents in biologists’ involvement in U.S. encounters with the tropical world over the course of the twentieth century, centered on the circum­Caribbean region. This book argues that the ideas, attitudes, and institutions forged at field sites in the colonies and neocolonies of the circum­Caribbean are crucial for understanding the emergence of this new paradigm in biology and conservation at the end of the century. Long before the BioDiversity Forum extended such ideas to the globe, U.S. biologists had begun both to articulate fundamental biological questions raised by the diversity of tropical life and to argue for its potential as a natural resource.

Keywords:   biodiversity, biology, Caribbean, conservation, diversity, field stations, place-based, tropicality, tropics, United States empire

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