Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Michael Bowman, Peter Davies and Edward Goodwin
Chapter 1: Law, legal scholarship and the conservation of biological diversity: 2020 vision and beyond
It can hardly be doubted that the current state of the world’s biological diversity provides cause for the gravest possible concern. As was candidly conceded by a wide-ranging survey prepared by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat for the purposes of the International Year which the UN had originally dedicated to the topic: The target agreed by the world’s Governments in 2002, ‘to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth’, has not been met. The evidence of this failure was all around. Many of those species whose prospects of survival had been formally assessed were moving closer to extinction, with coral species experiencing the most rapid rate of deterioration and amphibians facing the greatest risk generally. Nearly a quarter of all plant species were judged to be threatened with extinction, while population surveys suggested that the overall abundance of vertebrate species had fallen by nearly one-third between 1970 and 2006, and was still falling, with the severest declines occurring in the tropics and amongst freshwater species. Despite some successes in slowing the process, natural habitats generally continued to decline in both extent and integrity. The services provided by forests, rivers and other natural ecosystems had progressively been compromised by fragmentation and degradation, while the genetic diversity of crops and livestock in agricultural systems remained in decline.