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The success of the international community in protecting global biodiversity

  • 10 Pages
  • Published On: 7-12-2023
Introduction and background

By now, it is apparent that the world could lose a significant proportion of the diversity of life in the next few centuries (Corlett et al, 2020). The loss of diversity of life could have serious negative implications on society. The loss of both gene pool and germplasm could cause a reduction in the number of species currently available for use. Furthermore, the loss of diversity could cause a loss of potentially new genetic resources even before humans discover their utility. More unfortunately, the loss of life’s diversity could lead to a loss of important ecological services such as the regulation of water quantity and quality, plant and animal regeneration, nutrient cycling, and regulation of climate extremes (Lepczyk et al, 2017). Despite all these potential ramifications caused by loss of life diversity, the international community has not achieved much success in protecting global biodiversity. This essay will identify the successes and failures of the international community in protecting global biodiversity.

Oliveira et al (2017) estimated that at least 50% of all earth species are native to at least 7% of the earth’s land area covered by tropical moist forests. Yet, according to Liu et al (2020), at the current rate of tropical conservation and deforestation, virtually all areas of tropical moist forest will be depleted by the next 50-70 years. More, unfortunately, most of the tropical areas are within developing countries are among the poorest in the world and are characterized by rapidly growing populations. The severe socioeconomic challenges faced by these countries make it difficult for them to focus on protecting biodiversity.


Furthermore, some countries (i.e. the developing countries) have become increasingly dependent on international assistance to address more pressing issues such as food and economic development needs as well as the need to conserve their biodiversity (Piaggio et al, 2017). This brings the issue of prioritization regarding resource allocation by both developing and developed countries towards protecting biodiversity.

The international community is torn between conserving biodiversity in tropical rain forests and maintaining economic sustainability and social progress in most countries considered ‘hubs’ of biodiversity. The main concern is that without increased attention to biodiversity, the global community stands to lose living resources of truly high value.

Even though the issue of pollution has recently received great attention from the international community, there is a continuing loss of wild animal and plant species through overexploitation, and a persistent loss of habitats in the tropical rain forest, all of which are a major cause of the projected extinction (Gavin et al, 2018). Therefore, systematic habitat conservation must be at the center of the international community’s efforts to conserve biodiversity.

But existing evidence reveals little success achieved by the international community towards systematically conserving habitats and consequently, protecting biodiversity. According to Kindsvater et al, (2018), this systematic approach would be defined as deliberate and comprehensive maintenance of all aspects of natural diversity including communities, species, and habitats. But because there is no full knowledge of the number and identity of all species, their habitat requirements and distribution, the international community’s efforts to achieve this systematic conservation must focus on the higher levels of conservation such as the ecosystem or the habitat – an area they have failed on.

Globally, there are at least 202,467 major conservation areas, culminating into at least 20 million square kilometers (International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN, 2016). These conservation areas can be classified into various major groups ranging from multiple uses of natural resources to strict nature reserves representing only a fraction of the biogeographical provinces recognized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; as an approximation of earth’s major types of diversity habitats (IUCN, 2016). Therefore, there is an already significant effort by the international community to invest in land and natural communities to conserve biodiversity.

But this investment is still not adequate. It covers only 17% of the target set to be achieved by 2020 set by the Convention on Biological Diversity under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Similarly, Kusmanoff et al (2020) contend that not all types of habitats, even the broad ones such as the above-mentioned biogeographic areas are represented in the current system despite, being of great importance to biodiversity.

Secondly, according to Asaad et al (2017), conservation areas in many countries lack the necessary management structures for proper conservation. In this regard, Iacona et al (2018) pointed out that without trained and professional personnel who are properly equipped and are operating under an elaborate management structure, many of the conservation areas may not achieve the expected levels of conservation.

Nonetheless, existing research evidence shows some acknowledgeable efforts. For example, Magnusson et al (2020) observed an increase in the extent and number of conservation areas globally since the 90s. To delve much into these statistics, reports by IUCN (2016) indicate that 14.7% of the earth’s land and 10% of the territorial waters have been protected, putting the world on track towards achieving the global conservation target. However, the Protected Planet (IUCN, 2016) report indicate that much of the crucial biodiversity areas are still not under protection with key habitats and species still underrepresented thus limiting the effectiveness of the protected areas.

This implies that the international community still needs to do more to protect the most valuable biodiversity areas. Similar remarks were made by Carranza et al 2020 who noted that the protected areas should be well connected to allow better interaction between animals and plants. Furthermore, the international community still needs more efforts in ensuring that the local communities participate in the protection initiatives. Their involvement is important to long-term biodiversity conservation.

More, unfortunately, land coverage has declined by 0.7% since the 2016 Protected Area report (IUCN, 2016), a phenomenon that is attributed to the decline in data fluxes such as changed territorial boundaries, removal of some areas from the Protected Areas Database, improved quality of data and an actual decrease in ground coverage. Nonetheless, existing evidence indicates that the Caribbean and Latin American countries protect the largest portion of their land (at least 5 million square kilometres) – half of it in Brazil, which commands the world’s largest protected area of 2.47 million square kilometres (IUCN, 2016).

The goal of various international development assistance programs such as the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) is to help people in need of social, economic and human needs (Taylor et al, 2020), the conservation ethic, which entails developing sustained and rational resources seem to be succeeding in both in developing and highly developed societies. However, most of the world’s population live in developing nations, which are constantly in the transition from older traditional cultures to modern economic practices (Lepczyk et al, 2017). If the success in Brazil, the Caribbean and Latin America is to guide the future in biodiversity in conservation, the conservation ethic, as it relates to land use, can prosper in developing countries as they transition from traditional cultures. Therefore, the international community can only succeed in its efforts to conserve biodiversity if they usefully contribute to the economic and social development of developing countries.

However, according to Herzon et al (2018), the conservation efforts cannot wait until the development is achieved. Such efforts must be part of the overall framework of economic development for them to succeed. For instance, according to Asaad et al (2017), protected areas will not succeed in a situation where the humans living in those environments are in dire need. Similarly, Kusmanoff et al (2020) argue that poor individuals burn forests and destroy other biodiversity habitats for certain economic reasons – they need firewood for fuel of they need cleared forests to help in producing food for their families. Therefore, it is only after being provided with feasible options that the wasteful burning and slashing of tropical forests will the habitats be protected for more biodiversity (Kindsvater et al, 2018).

There are several responses to these issues that are worth evaluating. For instance, upon the recognition that biodiversity is an important aspect of living a sustainable life here on earth, the United Nations, through the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), has initiated several responses to biodiversity, even though some challenges are still eminent. For instance, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has increasingly focused on the role of business as a source of biodiversity impact and as a facilitator of biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) management, identifying various opportunities for the international business community to participate in the process of biodiversity conservation (Lepczyk et al, 2017).

The UNEP has continued to assist governments in establishing a national target based on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as part of the key steps in achieving the commitments set out in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. This has seen various countries making important steps towards biodiversity conservation including Canada, whereby during the 25th anniversary of Action for Biodiversity, Canada developed a series of webinars to showcase some of the domestic and international biodiversity initiatives. The webinars invited anyone around the world wishing to learn more about biodiversity to join and learn about various actions that they can take to preserve biodiversity for future generations (United Nations Decade on Biodiversity UNDB, 2020). However, despite all these reports, UNEP still regrets the news that 190 species are still classified as critically endangered (United Nations, 2020).

While the CBD programs and strategies have encouraged some policy reforms and actions at national levels, the overall effectiveness of these implementations could be increased if they were integrated into various planning processes such as land reforms and decentralization, all of which are generally the effects of land use and desertification. Generally, according to Asaad et al (2017), the international agreements concerning ecological resources and biodiversity tend to be less successful compared to those made on trade and defense because of the nature of reciprocal benefits for the contracting parties – which act as a major driving force for other forms of agreements.

Much of the challenges experienced by countries in implementing biodiversity policy agreements made at international levels are generally attributable to various legal and perception issues. First, the success of most international legal agreements depends on the parties’ perception of the need for longer cooperation (Kusmanoff et al, 2020). Similarly, according to Asaad et al (2017), nature of legal agreements’ design also plays a major role in their practical implementation. Because some negotiation processes are complex and because of the lack of resources by some countries to fulfil these agreements, there is a challenge for those countries to represent their perspectives and interest when signing international biodiversity conservation agreements (Lepczyk et al, 2017). This partly undermines their practical implementation of those agreements at national levels. Thus, there is a clear need for developing countries to augment their capacity to participate in international biodiversity conservation agreements.

Nonetheless, other remarkable efforts made by the United Nations CITES is to avail various resources to increase the agencies’ capacity for biodiversity conservation. For instance, recently, the UN Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the CITES secretariat added at least 4000 identification resources as part of the CITES identification manual for species (CITES, 2020). This initiative was based on the notion that proper specie identification emerged as one of the major challenges facing various global conservation agencies when conducting duties related to the Convention (CITES, 2020). When the agencies have the ease of identifying the species, the process of conserving them becomes more simplified.

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In conclusion, the following recommendations can help the international community have better participation in the conservation of biodiversity:

The international community, through CBD’s leadership, should identify priority countries within each of the three global geographical areas (Latin America, Asia and Africa) on which, much focus should be put on conservation work. Non-governmental and scientific communities can be of great help to this process

Upon identifying these priority areas, the international community should develop the most responsive initiatives and interventions that can be implemented and supported in those areas

Further research is needed on the concept of biodiversity and methods of maintaining it. This can include physical, biological and social research studies aimed at identifying the human activities that destroy the habitats.


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