Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law

Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Alexander Gillespie

This important and timely book provides a rigorous overview of the defining issues presently facing conservation at international level. The author provides detailed coverage of topics ranging from the classification of species right through to access and benefit sharing, drawing on his personal experience at intergovernmental level. Each question is examined through the prism of dozens of treaties and hundreds of decisions and resolutions of the key multilateral regimes, and the law in each area is supplemented by the necessary considerations of science, politics and philosophy – providing much-needed context for the reader.

Chapter 2: Species and Areas

Alexander Gillespie

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, public international law


INTRODUCTION The purpose of this chapter is to provide some background on what a species or a protected area is in scientific, political, and legal terms. These definitions are supplemented by the contexts in which they appear and how these may influence the understandings of conservation both generally and in specific areas. This knowledge is necessary as international conservation is built upon long-running scientific and political debates about the classifications and contexts of both species and places. Far from being dry debates, as they are often perceived, these discussions can go directly to the heart of conservation objectives, and very small nuances may alter the entire context of a debate. 2. SPECIES The focus of this work is biological diversity, wildlife, and the habitats they live in. Although wildlife is a subset of biodiversity, they share a common factor in the core of their feature in that they are both made up of species. Each species is the repository of an immense amount of genetic material from which the term ‘genetic diversity’ comes.1 The number of genes range from about 1000 in bacteria to 10,000 in some fungi, through to 400,000 or more in many flowering plants. A mouse, for example, has about 100,000 genes.2 The study of genetic variety within a species can be traced to Gregor Mendel (1822– 1884), who, towards the end of the nineteenth century, worked in a quiet monastery crossbreeding and counting variations of peas.3 Conversely, the biological classification of different species...

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