What is Biodiversity?

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is short for “biological diversity”, or the variety of plants and animals in the world. We depend on this richness of plants and animals. It has important economic benefits, through farming, fishing, tourism and through the provision of raw materials for things like medical research. Plants and animals are an important part of our cultural heritage, and give us pleasure and enjoyment. Biodiversity also provides us with natural services such as soil creation, biological control of pests and flood prevention.

Where did it all start?

The word “biodiversity” came from the “Earth Summit” held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, where 159 countries (including Britain) recognised the value of biodiversity to human life and signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. This pledges the UK to conserve biodiversity, to use its components in a way that ensures they continue to be available for future generations, and to share the benefits of biodiversity fairly and equitably between all nations and people. This way of using resources is an integral part of the philosophy of sustainable development, whereby any development should ensure that it does not deprive the quality of life of future generations.

Why is biodiversity different from what has happened before?

Biodiversity is a relatively new buzzword, which has already attracted wide spread attention. Unlike many nature conservation initiatives in the past, the intention is to be more inclusive, both in scope and in terms of who is involved.

It is not just about habitats and species or designated sites; it is also about the sustainable and equitable use of resources, and about local communities setting their own, local priorities for action on the ground.

What has happened so far?

The UK Government commissioned a detailed set of recommendations on how the Convention on Biological Diversity should be implemented, known as the “UK Biodiversity Action Plan”. This includes lists of habitats and species which are considered to be the ones most in need of conservation in the UK. Action plans have subsequently been drawn up for these habitats and species, focusing particularly on national objectives.

More recently, the Scottish Executive passed the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, which places a duty upon public bodies to further the conservation of biodiversity. The Executive has also produced The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and a series of implementation plans that suggest ways of furthering the conservation of biodiversity at a Scotland-wide level.

What about Local Biodiversity Action Plans?

The majority of local authorities are now involved in the preparation of Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs), which are contributions to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. LBAPs are prepared by partnerships of interested organisations and individuals. They are a way of ensuring that both nationally important and locally important habitats and species are protected and managed in a given area. They are a way of determining local priorities for biodiversity, and for involving local people in practical projects to help wildlife.

Learn more . . .

  • The Biodiversity of Highland
  • Biodiversity Action Planning
  • Video produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity

Highland Environment Forum

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