Latest Research on biodiversity conservation : Apr 2022

Biodiversity Conservation: Challenges Beyond 2010

The continued growth of human populations and of per capita consumption have resulted in unsustainable exploitation of Earth’s biological diversity, exacerbated by climate change, ocean acidification, and other anthropogenic environmental impacts. We argue that effective conservation of biodiversity is essential for human survival and the maintenance of ecosystem processes. Despite some conservation successes (especially at local scales) and increasing public and government interest in living sustainably, biodiversity continues to decline. Moving beyond 2010, successful conservation approaches need to be reinforced and adequately financed. In addition, however, more radical changes are required that recognize biodiversity as a global public good, that integrate biodiversity conservation into policies and decision frameworks for resource production and consumption, and that focus on wider institutional and societal changes to enable more effective implementation of policy.[1]

Wilderness and biodiversity conservation

Human pressure threatens many species and ecosystems, so conservation efforts necessarily prioritize saving them. However, conservation should clearly be proactive wherever possible. In this article, we assess the biodiversity conservation value, and specifically the irreplaceability in terms of species endemism, of those of the planet’s ecosystems that remain intact. We find that 24 wilderness areas, all > 1 million hectares, are > 70% intact and have human densities of less than or equal to five people per km2. This wilderness covers 44% of all land but is inhabited by only 3% of people. Given this sparse population, wilderness conservation is cost-effective, especially if ecosystem service value is incorporated. Soberingly, however, most wilderness is not speciose: only 18% of plants and 10% of terrestrial vertebrates are endemic to individual wildernesses, the majority restricted to Amazonia, Congo, New Guinea, the Miombo-Mopane woodlands, and the North American deserts. Global conservation strategy must target these five wildernesses while continuing to prioritize threatened biodiversity hotspots.[2]

Indigenous Knowledge for Biodiversity Conservation

Indigenous peoples with a historical continuity of resource-use practices often possess a broad knowledge base of the behavior of complex ecological systems in their own localities. This knowledge has accumulated through a long series of observations transmitted from generation to generation. Such “diachronic” observations can be of great value and complement the “synchronic” observations on which western science is based. Where indigenous peoples have depended, for long periods of time, on local environments for the provision of a variety of resources, they have developed a stake in conserving, and in some cases, enhancing, biodiversity. They are aware that biological diversity is a crucial factor in generating the ecological services and natural resources on which they depend. Some indigenous groups manipulate the local landscape to augment its heterogeneity, and some have been found to be motivated to restore biodiversity in degraded landscapes. Their practices for the conservation of biodiversity were grounded in a series of rules of thumb which are apparently arrived at through a trial and error process over a long historical time period. This implies that their knowledge base is indefinite and their implementation involves an intimate relationship with the belief system. Such knowledge is difficult for western science to understand. It is vital, however, that the value of the knowledge-practice-belief complex of indigenous peoples relating to conservation of biodiversity is fully recognized if ecosystems and biodiversity are to be managed sustainably. Conserving this knowledge would be most appropriately accomplished through promoting the community-based resource-management systems of indigenous peoples.[3]

Biodiversity conservation and conservation biotechnology tools

This special issue is dedicated to the in vitro tools and methods used to conserve the genetic diversity of rare and threatened plant species from around the world. Species that are on the brink of extinction because of the rapid loss of genetic diversity and habitat come mainly from resource-poor areas of the world and from global biodiversity hotspots and island countries. These species are unique because they are endemic, and only a few small populations or sometimes only a few individuals remain in the wild. Therefore, the challenges to support conservation by in vitro measures are many and varied. The editors of this invited issue solicited papers from experts from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and North and South America. This compilation of articles describes the efforts in these diverse regions toward saving plants from extinction, and details the direct application of in vitro and cryopreservation methods. In addition, these contributions provide guidance on propagation of rare plants, including techniques for large-scale propagation, storage, and reintroduction. The in vitro techniques for conserving plant biodiversity include shoot apical or axillary-meristem-based micropropagation, somatic embryogenesis, cell culture technologies and embryo rescue techniques, as well as a range of in vitro cold storage and cryopreservation protocols, and they are discussed in depth in this issue.[4]

Agriculture and biodiversity conservation: opportunity knocks

The fact that the expansion and intensification of agriculture has been the major driver of past biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation globally is beyond dispute. It is highly likely that these trends will continue through the 21st century, unless action is taken to design effective management strategies for biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. To do this, we first need to recognize that some biodiversity is retained in farmland, and that it is the degree of biodiversity retention that we need to understand and effectively manage. We need to understand which biodiversity components are retained as a natural ecosystem is converted to agriculture and why; how community dynamics affect biodiversity retention; and how we can effectively manage biodiversity retention. These questions are being addressed, but much remains to be done; and we have to accept that progress will be contentious. Challenging as these questions are, conservationists cannot address them in isolation. Multifunctional ecosystem science and policy linked to human well-being is the ultimate goal. While the goal seems distant and daunting, integration between relevant research disciplines is happening, research funding is beginning to recognize the need for better integration and policy has to respond. Conservation science has a key role to play and must be ready to meet this challenge.[5]


[1] Rands, M.R., Adams, W.M., Bennun, L., Butchart, S.H., Clements, A., Coomes, D., Entwistle, A., Hodge, I., Kapos, V., Scharlemann, J.P. and Sutherland, W.J., 2010. Biodiversity conservation: challenges beyond 2010. science, 329(5997), pp.1298-1303.

[2] Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., Brooks, T.M., Pilgrim, J.D., Konstant, W.R., Da Fonseca, G.A. and Kormos, C., 2003. Wilderness and biodiversity conservation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(18), pp.10309-10313.

[3] Gadgil, M., Berkes, F. and Folke, C., 1993. Indigenous knowledge for biodiversity conservation. Ambio, pp.151-156.

[4] Reed, B.M., Sarasan, V., Kane, M., Bunn, E. and Pence, V.C., 2011. Biodiversity conservation and conservation biotechnology tools. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology-Plant, 47(1), pp.1-4.

[5] Norris, K., 2008. Agriculture and biodiversity conservation: opportunity knocks. Conservation letters, 1(1), pp.2-11.

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