Sustained Biological Productivity

  • Keynote Paper


When the organizers of this Conference asked me to contribute a paper on sustained biological productivity, I presumed they had in mind the International Biological Programme (IBP) which runs for the decade of 1964–74, with more than sixty countries participating. Its purpose is the world study of ‘biological productivity and human welfare’, and it seemed that the Conference organizers were thinking in terms of sustained biological productivity linked to man’s use thereof. Other speakers were billed to deal with conservation for its own sake, but my first point is that there is no real scientific difference between the two. Whether one considers a biological system of very high productivity (say, a field of cane-sugar or a carp pond), or of very low productivity (say, the arctic tundra or the Dead Sea), the flow of energy through the biological system is sustained, somewhere near the maximum, within the limits imposed by environmental factors. However, when it comes to management to meet human needs, we have to define our objectives carefully, because manipulation of a particular ecosystem is often possible in two quite different and even opposing directions.


Biological Productivity Transpiration Stream Terrestrial Water Environmental Future Biological Water 


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Copyright information

© Nicholas Polunin 1972

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  • Keynote Paper

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