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Protection Of Endangered Biodiversity

Biodiversity can be protected in ecological reserves. These are protected areas established for the conservation of natural values, usually the known habitat of endangered species, threatened ecosystems, or representative examples of widespread communities. In the early 1990s there were about 7,000 protected areas globally, with an area of 2.5 million sq mi (651 million ha.) Of this total, about 2,400 sites comprising 1.5 million sq mi (379 million ha) were fully protected and could be considered to be true ecological reserves.

Ideally, the design of a national system of ecological reserves would provide for the longer-term protection of all native species and their natural communities, including terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. So far, however, no country has implemented a comprehensive system of ecological reserves to fully protect its natural biodiversity. Moreover, in many cases the existing reserves are relatively small and threatened by eenvironmental change and other stressors, such as illegal poaching of animals and plants and sometimes excessive tourism.

The World Conservation Union, World Resources Institute, and United Nations Environment Program are three important agencies whose mandates center on the conservation of the world's biodiversity. These agencies have developed the Global Biodiversity Strategy, an international program to help protect biodiversity. The broad objectives are to: (1) preserve biodiversity; (2) maintain Earth's ecological processes and life-support systems; and (3) ensure that biodiversity resources are used in a sustainable manner. As such, the Global Biodiversity Strategy is a mechanism by which countries and peoples can initiate meaningful actions to protect biodiversity for the benefit of present and future generations of people, and also for its intrinsic value. Because it only began in the late 1970s, it is too early to evaluate the success of this program. However, the existence of this comprehensive international effort is encouraging, as is the participation of most of Earth's countries, representing all stages of socioeconomic development.

Another important international effort is the Convention on Biological Diversity, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program and signed by many countries at a major conference at Rio De Janeiro in 1992. This international treaty requires signatory nations to take measures to systematically catalogue their indigenous biodiversity, and to take action to ensure that it is conserved.

Numerous other agencies are working to preserve biodiversity. In the United States, the World Wildlife Fund and Nature Conservancy are important organizations at the national level. There are numerous other national and local groups. The lead federal agency is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and all states have similar agencies.

Important progress is being made, and the progressive worldwide development of activities intended to identify, conserve, and preserve biodiversity will hopefully come to be regarded as an ecological "success story."



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Gaston, K.J., and J.I. Spicer. Biodiversity: An Introduction. Blackwell Science Inc., 1998.

Hamblin, W.K., and E.H. Christiansen. Earth's Dynamic Systems. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2001. Levin, Simon A., ed. Encyclopedia of Biodiversity. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2000.

Myers, Judith, and Dawn Bazely. Ecology and Control of Introduced Plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Nebel, Bernard J., and Richard T. Wright. Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future. 8th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Schneiderman, Jill S. The Earth Around Us: Maintaining a Livable Planet. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co., 2000.

Wilson, E.O. The Diversity of Life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Wilson, E.O., ed. BioDiversity. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1988.


Caballero A., and M.A. Toro. "Interrelations Between Effective Population Size and Other Pedigree Tools for the Management of Conserved Populations." Genet Res 75(no. 3) (June 2000): 331–43.

Bill Freedman


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—The scientific name of organisms consists of two words, and is therefore a binomial. Humans, for example, are named Homo sapiens, which designates our genus as Homo, and our species within that genus as sapiens. Binomials are always latinized words, and are written in italics, or underlined.


—Refers to a situation in which a species is vulnerable to extinction or extirpation.


—Refers to species with a relatively local distribution, sometimes occurring as small populations confined to a single place, such as an oceanic island. Endemic species are more vulnerable to extinction than are more widespread species.


—The condition in which all members of a group of organisms have ceased to exist. Extirpation means that a species no longer occurs in a place or country, although it survives elsewhere.

Species diversity

—An indicator of biodiversity at the community level, which accommodates both the number of species present (i.e., richness) and their relative abundance. Ecologists consider species diversity to be a good indicator of biodiversity within communities, because it accommodates differences amongst species in rarity and commonness.

Species richness

—The number of species occurring in a community, a landscape, or some other defined area.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Bilateral symmetry to Boolean algebraBiodiversity - Species Richness Of The Biosphere, Why Is Biodiversity Important?, Biodiversity And Extinction, Protection Of Endangered Biodiversity