UN Biodiversity Conference Part I: Highlighting Wildlife Loss Around the World

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Part 1 of 2 from Amy Anaruk on the U.N. Biodiversity Conference

When almost 200 countries met in Bonn, Germany last month to address damage to wildlife, plant populations, and natural resources around the world, they had several goals with one major one: reduce this unprecedented global biodiversity loss by 2010. In particular, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is trying to staunch losses in indigenous forests and the oceans, create a plan for sharing genetic resources to eliminate biopiracy, and concentrate on the wildlife and natural resources within poor communities.

These countries sought immediate action and global cooperation:

"The CBD meeting is the last major gathering before the 2010 target date. Its central aim is to draft a document similar to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to take over after 2010.

The organizers are keen to secure binding commitment to clearly laid down targets, along the lines of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the successor agreement which began to take shape at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali in December." - Earth News

Why such a sense of urgency?

BiodiversityBecause plant and animal populations are dying out, as the world gets more crowded and humans encroach on animal habitats and ecologically important areas like rainforests. Pollution causes even more damage, and over-hunting and over-fishing take care of the rest.

But, wait-it gets worse. According to the Living Planet Index, a wildlife tracking partnership between the Zoological Society of London and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), global animal populations fell a whopping 27% between 1970 and 2005. Even if you're not an animal lover, consider this grim scenario by the WWF:

"Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply.

No-one can escape the impact of biodiversity loss because reduced global diversity translates quite clearly into fewer new medicines, greater vulnerability to natural disasters and greater effects from global warming." - BBC

The effect of biodiversity loss on medicines isn't just an abstract concept. Some of the world's most crucial or most common pharmaceuticals rely on specific plant sources. For example,

"If the Pacific yew, a tree or shrub, vanishes, so does an active ingredient in cancer treatment. The bark of the white willow contains a raw material of aspirin.

Some one-half of approved medicines in Germany are based on plant material. On a global scale, it is estimated that 40 percent of world trade involves biological processes and products." - Deutsche Welle

Widespread destruction of plant and animal life doesn't just threaten the world's food and water supply or the ability to produce lifesaving drugs, either. It also has a very real impact on daily life in vulnerable communities:

"According to Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International's Species Programme: "Trade in wildlife products can have a significant positive economic impact on people's livelihoods, childhood education, and the role of women in developing countries, provided it is legal, well-managed and sustainable."

Conversely, wholesale ‘plundering' of natural resources and illegal trade not only deplete wildlife populations, but also deprive poor communities of vital livelihood benefits." - TRAFFIC

The hard facts of wildlife and plant destruction are matched only by this potential for future devastation, especially among the world's poorest populations. Lack of financial resources to protect natural resources within developing countries is compounded by biopiracy, as pharmaceutical companies patent traditional medicines from these nations without compensating them.

Step back, and the picture looks even darker:

"Some scientists see the loss of plants, animals and insects as the start of the sixth great species wipe out in the Earth's history, the last being in the age of the dinosaurs which disappeared 130 million years ago." - Reuters

Clearly, the CBD delegates needed to take giant steps to protect the diverse animal and plant populations that form this planet's most valuable asset.

Further Reading:

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  • Posted on June 30, 2008. Listed in:

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