The biological diversity of the world the variability among living organisms is valuable for ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic reasons. Biodiversity plays an important role in evolution and for maintaining the condition of life support systems within the biosphere. If we are going to meet the food and health needs of a growing world population, then it is widely recognised that we need to conserve and sustain our biological diversity.
The Convention on Biological Diversity entered into international law in 1994 with 153 nations signing up. At first, many of the developed nations, most notably the United States, were reluctant to sign because they felt that their biotechnology industry would be threatened. The Convention states that participating nations have rights over their biological resources, allowing responsible and sustainable exploitation, but ensuring that biological diversity is conserved. The Convention commits participating nations to a number of guiding principles.
- Identify the components of biodiversity that are useful in conservation. These components must then be used sustainably and activities that may harm the diversity must be monitored.
- Develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
- Integrate conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into planning and policy making.
- Help people understand the importance of planning and policy making by using the media and educational programmes.
- Establish laws to protect and conserve threatened species and protected areas. Around these areas, environmentally sound development must be used.
- Restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species.
- Establish ways to control the risks from organisms modified by biotechnology.
- Use the participation of members of the public within projects that threaten biodiversity.
Developed nations were given a responsibility to pass on their environmentally sound technologies for the purpose of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity. The developed nations must also provide financial aid to developing nations to help them implement the terms of the Convention.
Following the implementation of the Convention in 1994, the UK’s national Biodiversity Action Plan has co-ordinated activity to conserve and enhance biodiversity in this country. It is overseen by the UK Biodiversity Group, drawn from central and local government, official and voluntary conservation bodies, business, farming and land management. Action plans for the protection of over 400 priority species and 45 habitats are now in place. Wildlife protection has often focused on special reserves which contain habitats and species which must be maintained. But there is a risk that populations become smaller, fragmented and vulnerable to extinction. Their long-term survival, and overall enhancement of wildlife, depends on action in cities, towns and the countryside as a whole.