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Experts from diverse nations and disciplines agree that Earth's natural resources cannot continue to meet the demands of a human population that has surpassed six billion, with burgeoning rates of extraction, consumption, destruction, and pollution. As a result, biodiversity, the intricately linked variety of organisms and life processes that make up our planet, is in peril. As many as 100,000 species may be disappearing each year. It is estimated that, given the current rate of destruction, Earth could lose 25 percent of its life forms within the next 25 years.

This massive depletion of resources could severely limit the options for future inhabitants of the planet. As vital components of sophisticated ecosystems diminish or completely disappear, their foundations will begin to crumble—leaving life-sustaining, economic, aesthetic, and spiritual voids in our environment.

Given the pervasive scale of biological destruction, there is an urgent need for integrated approaches that address wildlife conservation from the broad expanse of landscapes to the minute subcellular realm of genetics. The only unit of the Smithsonian Institution exclusively devoted to the study of wildlife conservation biology at these diverse levels is the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.