Web Niche on Biodiversity & Conservation Biology

Welcome to my Web Niche on Biodiversity and Conservation Biology (BCB) the department I work in at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town. Biodiversity is the variety of forms of living organisms at various levels and Conservation Biology is the study of how we can prevent species and habitats being lost while still maintaining sustainable human societies. I teach Landscape Ecology and Ecological Informatics.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Revisiting the Convention on Biodiversity: Highlights

The Convention on Biodiversity was a tangible product of the Rio Earth Summit.

The objective of this convention are "are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding".

My Highlights of the Convention include that each signature should:

(a) Develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the
conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or adapt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes which shall reflect, inter alia, the measures set out in this Convention relevant to the Contracting Party concerned;

(b) Integrate, as far as possible and as appropriate, the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or
cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies;

(c) Identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use having regard to the indicative list of categories set down in Annex I of Convention;

(d) Monitor, through sampling and other techniques, the components of biological diversity identified pursuant to subparagraph paying particular attention to those requiring urgent conservation measures and those which offer the greatest potential for sustainable use;

(e) Identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and monitor their effects through sampling and other techniques;

(f) Maintain and organize, by any mechanism data, derived from identification and monitoring activities;

(g) Establish a system of protected areas or areas where specialmeasures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity. Develop,where necessary, guidelines for the selection, establishment and management of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity;

(h) Regulate or manage biological resources important for the conservation of biological diversity whether within or outside protected areas, with a view to ensuring their conservation and sustainable use;

(i) Promote the protection of ecosystems, natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations of species in natural surroundings;

(j) Promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas with a view to furthering protection of these areas;

(k) Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, inter alia, through the development and implementation of plans or other management strategies;

(l) Establish or maintain means to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology which are likely to have adverse environmental impacts that could affect the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account the risks to human health;

(m) Prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species;

(n) Endeavour to provide the conditions needed for compatibility between present uses and the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components;

(o) Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge,innovations and practices;

(p) Develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations;

(q) Where a significant adverse effect on biological diversity has been determined pursuant to Article 7, regulate or manage the relevant processes and categories of activities;

(r) Cooperate in providing financial and other support for in-situ conservation outlined above, particularly to developing countries;

(s) Adopt measures for the ex-situ conservation of components of biological diversity, preferably in the country of origin of such components;

(t) Establish and maintain facilities for ex-situ conservation of and research on plants, animals and micro- organisms, preferably in the country of origin of genetic resources;

(u) Adopt measures for the recovery and rehabilitation of threatened species and for their reintroduction into their natural habitats under appropriate conditions;

(v) Regulate and manage collection of biological resources from natural habitats for ex-situ conservation purposes so as not to threaten ecosystems and in-situ populations of species, except where special temporary ex-situ measures are required;

(x) Cooperate in providing financial and other support for ex-situ conservation outlined above and in the establishment and maintenance of ex-situ conservation facilities in developing countries.

Link to the full text of the Covention on Biodiversity:


Origin and growth of the concept "Biodiversity"

The term “Biodiversity” is a new concept coined by Prof E.O. Wilson. Originally born “BioDiversity” is was the theme of a “National Forum on BioDiversity”, held in Washington, D.C., on September 21-24, 1986, The proceedings of the forum, published in 1988 under the title BioDiversity has usually been cited as Biodiversity and the latest printing indeed uses this title and published by National Academy Press and is freely available in PDF format to South African citizens at the following wenb address http://www.nap.edu/catalog/989.html. The forum coincided with an increase in interest, among scientists and the public alike, in matters of global species and ecosystems conservation.. This was mostly due to sufficient data on deforestation, species extinction, and tropical biology becoming available. The establishment of the Society for Conservation Biology in 1986 was also a catalyst for the founding of this new discipline. Simultaneously with these events was forging of relationships between biodiversity conservation and economic development. From the late 1960’s the developed countries of the world were seeing polarization between development and environmental concerns, whereas in the developing countries unchecked development was happening at the expense of the natural environment and essentially boom and bust economies. Further the biodiversity of the developing countries, who were mostly in the tropical regions tropical, was not recognized as value for new foods, pharmaceuticals, fibers, and petroleum substitutes.

By 1992 the concept of Biodiversity was firmly established, and was the key topic of the Rio environmental summit. This summit shifted biodiversity from the scientific communities to become a world-wide political issue that has largely overshadowed other issues of organism-level biology. To illustrated this as of the end of 2005 a search in Google on the word “Biodiversity” produces almost 40 million hits, where as the terms ”Zoology” and ”Botany” are approaching 18 million. The term “natural selection”, “systematics”and “cladistics” the constructs that are mostly responsible for explaining, managing and analyzing biodiversity have >8 million, >4 million and 325 thousand hits respectively. Essentially this reflects that Biodiversity has become “Mainstreamed” in societies around the world.