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Protecting the Biodiversity of Our Planet: A Global Effort

  • 26 May 2023

"The earth has enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed." - Mahatma Gandhi

The modern human culture, where materialistic economic development lies at the core of progress, somehow fails to fact-check that more than half of the world's GDP comes directly from nature. Consumption, comfort, and a flawed understanding of development and growth have led humans to juxtapose themselves against nature. Reckless development activities, the need for agricultural land to feed and shelter the ever-growing human population, coupled with the proliferation of invasive species, impact the delicate web of life: biodiversity. Habitat loss and fragmentation (due to deforestation and developmental activities), overexploitation for food, poaching, pollution of habitats, competition from invasive species, and human-induced climate change are the factors behind the loss of biodiversity. While many species have gone extinct (such as the amphibian species of golden toad and frogs in Central America; Bramble Cay melomys of Australia became the first species to go extinct due to climate change), over a million face the threat of extinction in the coming times.

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life and ecosystems that inhabit Earth at multiple levels: from the genetic pool to species biodiversity and the ecosystems that support life.

Importance of Biodiversity

  • Ecological Contribution: The higher the biodiversity, the more resilient the ecosystem is to climate change, diseases, or disasters. The reduction in genetic diversity of agricultural plants, owing to the popular adoption of monoculture, has repeatedly threatened output volumes. An exemplary case is that of the banana, which is threatened by Panama disease, a fungal outbreak.
  • Different species play a cardinal role in maintaining ecosystems. Foundation species like corals create and maintain a healthy ecosystem. Keystone species like sea stars keep the populations of all other species balanced. In the Yellowstone Park ecosystem, the US government's organized removal of grey wolves, a keystone species (due to interference with human populations), catalyzed the degradation of the entire ecosystem. Soon after, the species was reintroduced in the area. Similarly, umbrella species support the existence of several other species, and then there are ecosystem engineers like trees and beavers that are crucial to their habitat as they physically modify it. The implication is that eradication or imbalance in the populations of any single species influences life on Earth.
  • Economic Value: The World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report (2022) lists biodiversity loss as a top economic threat. Nearly 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. Fishing is yet another primary sector activity that engages a significant proportion of the world's population. Healthy ecosystems are the base of the ecotourism industry. Coral reefs (presently under high corrosion due to increasing ocean acidification and temperatures due to climate change) and the beautiful diverse life they support generate huge economic outputs from tourism.
  • Ecosystem Services: Richer biodiversity influences the quality of ecosystem services, which include, but are not limited to:
  • Reduction in air pollution through natural carbon sequestration.
  • Water filtration: Wetlands filter chemicals, sediments, and excess ions from water. Microorganisms and algae remove excessive nitrogen due to fertilizer use and prevent the formation of aquatic dead zones.
  • Disaster protection: Mangroves protect the landscape from cyclone and tsunami-related destruction. Soil biodiversity protects the landscape from floods.
  • Food security: A healthy variety of pollinator species like birds and bees support agriculture and sources of food. Healthy aquatic ecosystems (like coral reefs) and clean waters support a variety of seafood.
  • Human health: The natural appeal of diverse ecosystems boosts mental health. They also provide a better environmental ambience for exercise. In addition to leisure time, they hold spiritual value for humanity.

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Climate change threatens biodiversity to a great extent. The rising global temperature influences the variety of genetic diversity of the ecosystem. Research suggests that high temperatures are resulting in higher number of female eggs in American alligators and turtles as the sex of offspring is dependent on temperature. Rising ocean temperatures have resulted in ocean acidification which resulted in a decline in keystone aragonite shell forming species, loss of coral reefs and associated life forms. The displacement of cold water species like salmon and trout and the decline in the population of alpine and snow-dependent species are increasingly worrying with time due to rising global temperatures. Rising sea levels are also a threat to habitat of several species.

Global efforts to tackle biodiversity loss

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): Facilitates coordinated efforts by nations, NGOs, scientists and government agencies. It has brought about World Commission on Protected Areas for preserving biodiversity through national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, forest reserves, zoological parks and botanical gardens. It also founded Species Survival Commission and Commission on Ecosystem Management to prevent species and ecosystem level biodiversity loss. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was also signed under IUCN to prevent illegal trading.
  • United Nations Environment Program engages in assessment and monitoring biodiversity crisis on global level. It brought about establishment of Convention on Biological Diversity. It also established Word Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) for biodiversity assessment and assisting meaningful policy formulation.
    • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which has been effective since 1993 also holds Conference Of Parties regularly to assess issues related to different biomes, conservation and sustainable usage of biodersity. Cartagena protocol on bio safety protects biodiversity from threat of genetically modified organisms.
  • UNESCO introduced Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage where biodiversity is implicit in the latter in 1972 and UNESCO Global Geoparks for holistic sustainable development, protection and education. It also launched Man And Biosphere (MAB) program under which opening of biosphere reserves was initiated to conserve biodiversity at all three levels and enable research and monitoring along with sustainable development of communities around.
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an NGO rigorously engaged in biodiversity conservation which is one of its primary objectives.
  • Global Environmental Facility: Established in 1991 provides financial aid for biodiversity and environmental projects.
  • Ramsar convention (1971) was signed to conserve wetlands and allow their sustainable use.
  • Bonn convention (1979) looks after conservation of migratory wild animals. The Japan-Australia bilateral agreement also works to protect migratory birds.

Conservation Strategies and Best Practices:

  • Conservation Strategies vary by where the species are protected. As per the requirements of species and the condition of their original habitat, conservation authority may go for in-situ and ex-situ conservation. In-situ conservation refers to the strategy adopted when the species are protected in their existing natural habitat while ex-situ refers to a case where species are moved from their natural habitat to some other protected area that is better suited for their conservation. Consequently, there are fundamental differences in how conservation is carried out. While in-situ conservation involves "designation, management and monitoring" in a "genetic reserve or on-farm".In India, in-situ conservation is carried out by declaring certain areas as protected areas that includes national parks wildlife sanctuaries and biosphere reserves; examples: Corbett national park, Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary and Nanda Devi biosphere reserve to name a few. Ex-situ includes " sampling, transfer and storage" in which "seed/embryo/semen/ovule/DNA storage, in vitro storage" is carried out in "field gene bank/ livestock parks, botanical and zoological gardens". Emerging technologies of cryo preservation, gene banking and tissue culture banking exist additionally to long standing captive breeding botanical gardens animal translocation zoological gardens. An example of ex-situ conservation in India is Aacharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden (Howrah) where approximately 1400 species have been conserved.
  • Conservation success stories: Return of humpback whale to a pre-hunting level after a stay on commercial whaling, trade ban on whale products and introduction of subsistence whaling. Collaboration between scientists of Israel and Arab countries to protect Red Sea coral reefs (over and above their religious and geopolitical conflicts). Mountain Gorilla conservation in Virunga Massif (East Africa) needs a special mention. Bald Eagle becoming a rare sight in the US, resulted in sustained conservation efforts including banning of DDT chemical that heavily influenced their diet eventually leading to regeneration of populations of the US national emblem. Tiger conservation in India is yet another outstanding example as the tiger population has increased by 33% since 2015. Do you know the backstory of Panda on WWF logo? The panda symbol of WWF is not just a symbol of wildlife simply but how governments and NGOs can come together to conserve it using latest technologies. WWF devoted funds and research (applying remote sensing) to search suitable habitats for Panda.
  • Indigenous and local community-based conservation: In India, Sacred Grooves and the responsibility to preserve them is a widespread approach among several tribal groups. Likewise, across globe community-based conservation has worked substantially in supporting biodiversity (examples: communities for Oriental Storks in China, for coral reef in Malaysia and Fiji, coastal susutainable develpment communities in Kenya). Australia spearheads the indigenous community based Protected Area management, where nearly 50% of total protected areas are managed as such. And now Canada is designation similar areas.

Techniques used for protecting biodiversity:

  • Invasive exotic species removal by taxonomic identification through Digital Automated Identification System.
  • Monetary evaluation of biodiversity includes biodiversity banking.
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity through gene banks. One of these banks, the Bank of International Crops Research Institute, is active in Patancheru, India.
  • Shift to organic fertilizers and pesticides to maintain soil biodiversity and that of pollinators. It also prevents harmful chemicals from entering the food chain.
  • Dealing with habitat fragmentation by making wildlife corridors. In India, the corridor exists between Jim Corbett and Rajaji National Park to allow better movement and a larger habitat for tigers, elephants, and other wildlife. Habitat fragmentation is a huge problem for dammed rivers as fishes and other aquatic fauna travel upstream to lay eggs and are lost while encountering turbines.

In 2022, the UN Biodiversity Conference of all countries in the world (except the USA and the Holy See) signed an agreement to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030, among other targets. The last decade was dedicated to biodiversity conservation by the UN. This decade (2020-2030) has been declared as the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. The program's focus is on holistic restoration of ecosystems, which also nurtures species and genetic biodiversity. Selected dedicated efforts from all over the world have been recognized and provided funding as flagship UN programs (to name a few: Central American dry patch restoration, River Ganga, golden steppes restoration in Kazakhstan, Mangrove restoration in Indonesia).

Technological Innovations and Biodiversity Conservation:

  • Remote sensing and GIS have been widely used to map, monitor, and plan species populations, habitat quality, site suitability for conservation, and network modeling for dealing with habitat fragmentation.
  • DNA barcoding: for species identification using small genome fragments, which may further be used for identifying threatened species (that may have a critical role in the ecosystem as well as for human use) from a number of similar confusing species and dedicating sustained efforts to protect threatened species.
  • Emerging technologies: Latest tech spreading fast across the globe may well be applied for constructive purposes. Blockchain may be used for tracking illegal trade of wild animals, especially threatened species, and products that originate from sources under the threat of extinction. Decentralized cryptocurrency-based payment systems for the environment are also being explored. The excessive energy demand of the technology remains a challenge for its usability in achieving sustainable ends. WWF has introduced a traceability tool based on blockchain (in conjunction with ConsenSys and Sea Quest) to monitor the Pacific tuna industry in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. Artificial Intelligence may be used for conservation prioritization and possibly animal counting and tracking (examples: smart buoys for detecting dolphin and whale calls; Nature Guardian project by Tech4Nature; robotic jellyfish to clean oceans developed at the Max Planck Institute in Germany). Citizen science or public participation in scientific research may help in the conservation of biodiversity. It may facilitate bridging much-needed data gaps in remote areas or regions where there is a shortage of conservation staff and a threat of biodiversity loss.


Despite several conventions, protocols, and COPs, the majority of nations fall short of achieving their biodiversity targets. It indicates a lack of political will and ignorance for science-based policy formation. At the base of this negligence lies an overconfidence in human ability that launches expensive and ambitious programs to search for life on other planets and to colonize them, not realizing that the culture of misuse and abuse anywhere will lead to a similar scenario anywhere, even if humans had a remote possibility of relocation and sustained life there. The ever-advancing technology needs to be rigorously channeled by laws for strictly constructive purposes, such as R&D critical for environmental conservation and innovation in conservation efforts in biodiversity hotspots as well as remote locations.

The 22nd of May, International Day for Biological Diversity, serves as a reminder of the critical role that biodiversity plays in nurturing life on Earth and combating climate change. It is now more important than ever to take into account the significance of biodiversity. The time to act is now. It's now or never!


Maxted, Nigel. "In situ, ex situ conservation." Encyclopedia of Biodiversity: Second Edition. Elsevier, 2013. 313-323.

Mondal, P. "Conservations of biodiversity: In-Situ conservation and Ex-Situ conservation." Your Article Library (2016).

Hartvig, Ida, et al. "The use of DNA barcoding in identification and conservation of rosewood (Dalbergia spp.)." PLoS One 10.9 (2015): e0138231.

Silvestro, Daniele, et al. "Improving biodiversity protection through artificial intelligence." Nature sustainability 5.5 (2022): 415-424.

Peter, Maria, et al. "Biodiversity citizen science: Outcomes for the participating citizens." People and Nature 3.2 (2021): 294-311.

Sakshi Naithani

Sakshi has done her Masters in Geography from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. She is currently pursuing Ph.D. in natural hazard risk assessment from Indian Institute of Remote Sensing-Kumaun University. When not engaged in research work, she loves to write poetry.

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