Biodiversity conservation

Biodiversity conservation was the biggest environmental issue before global warming and climate change trumped it.

At the first global environmental Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 it was the big topic, important enough to get its own United Nations Convention.

Today it is all but forgotten. Just a few environmentalist, NGOs, bureaucrats, and academics remain passionate about it. The public and politicians have moved on.

It is worth exploring why conservation became a big issue and then why it wasn't.

First here are some definitions.

What is biodiversity?

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity uses this formal definition…

"Biological diversity" means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems"

More simply it is...   

the grand total of all the profusion of life on earth

or as Ed Wilson puts it in the title of his 1992 book...  

the diversity of life

Check the ask alloporus what is biodiversity page for more details.

What is important here is that biodiversity contains  

  • components [genes, species, ecosystems] 
  • attributes [diversity, abundance, composition]

It has components parts and collectively those parts have measurable properties of diversity.

It's actually not about koalas at all.

biodiversity | some of the invertebrate animals collected in a light trap 

What is conservation?

The dictionary definition of conservation in the environmental context of the word is...

"the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife."

And it tends to come with the primary interpretation of preventing damage to the natural world through preservation. And if that is not possible, then perhaps apply some restoration and rehabilitation.

Whilst always well intentioned, this asset protection paradigm can become an environmental issues in itself.  

Why have biodiversity conservation?

Human population growth comes with huge demand for natural resources and for land and water to grow food and fibre.

This appropriation of space and habitat, along with hunting, fishing and forestry and the pollution impacts of industry has depleted biodiversity everywhere. There are fewer species than there were and most human altered habitats are far simpler in structure and biology than natural ones.

Biodiversity loss not only means that some iconic species are at risk, it also reduces the reliability of ecosystem services. This important feature of nature is sometimes called resilience.

Conservation advocates often focus on the preservation of the iconic species — koalas, elephants, walls, polar bears — and this has merit. But biodiversity conservation is really about keeping as much complexity as possible in the landscape.

Because it is complexity that helps to secure natural capital and the associated goods and services that we rely on so heavily. And this was always the real reason for the United Nations Convention.

Slowing down the rate of biodiversity loss by first understanding that complexity is important and then managing landscapes to enhance that complexity is still an important priority. The reason has not gone away but it was hard to prove and far less visual than the effects of "catastrophic global warming" that grabbed the headlines.

So the media spin cycle moved on long before biodiversity conservation solutions were found.

Artificial wetlands are important biodiversity hotspots

The forgotten environmental issue

Biodiversity conservation has become the forgotten environmental issue.

At a time when the number of Google searches has increased exponentially, searches for biodiversity have declined.

You can read an explanation of this trend on Ask Alloporus sister blog, Alloporus | Ideas for healthy thinking post entitled Biodiversity | Google trends #2

biodiversity search trend on Google

biodiversity | trend in Google searches for the term biodiversity have declined  

Let's be more specific 

Click through for more details on this important environmental issue...

  • Biodiversity loss is as inevitable as death and taxes, so why is it a major environmental issue? It has to do with what biodiversity gives us and how fast we are losing those services...  read more
  • African wildlife should make any list of environmental issues. Iconic animals and habitats are at risk from exploitation and changing land use… and a rare opportunity for environmental solutions...   read more
  • What is biodiversity was briefly a topical question. Typically for environmental issues that are hard to resolve, interest in biodiversity has waned. Yet the variety of life still sustains us... read more
  • Biodiversity hotspots are places that give us greatest return for conservation effort because they are rich in endemic or unique species. Already a focus of attention, they can tell us much more... read more
  • Biodiversity action plan is a formal response to the loss of biodiversity designed to restore and protect species or habitats. They are effective when they look beyond species to how nature works...  read more
  • Habitat fragmentation is a major environmental issue because when patchiness weakens the delivery of ecosystem services. It is as inevitable as it is technical... read more
  • Biodiversity in the city is not as strange as it sounds. Just so long as you don't expect the plants and creatures that were there before the buildings and pavements... read more
  • Biodiversity and poverty are linked somehow. We expect poor people to be reliant on the goods and services of nature, perhaps a little too much. Maybe we shouldn’t make assumptions... read more

› biodiversity conservation

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biodiversity | museum collections provide the raw material for biodiversity catalogues

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