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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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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

The Question of Diversity

The Question of Diversity

(p.131) Chapter Four The Question of Diversity
American Tropics

Megan Raby

University of North Carolina Press

Tracing the fieldwork and ideas of Robert H. MacArthur, Howard T. Odum, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, chapter 4 examines the post­World War II rise of efforts to capture the complexity of tropical nature using a simplified quantitative measure: species diversity. The new approaches were abstract but were shaped by U.S. biologists’ experiences in an increasingly wide array of sites within and beyond the circum­Caribbean—facilitated by the U.S. government’s interest in tropical warfare, demand for tropical products, and the growth in air travel. The rise of mathematical and systems approaches in ecology, along with the population perspective of the modern evolutionary synthesis, recast the old question of the biological difference of the tropics. The need for tropical data to solve biology’s core theoretical problems was now unquestionable.

Keywords:   Costa Rica, Howard T. Odum, Panama, Puerto Rico, quantification, rainforest, Robert H. MacArthur, species diversity, Theodosius Dobzhansky, theoretical ecology

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