Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law
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Conservation, Biodiversity and International Law

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.
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Chapter 7: Habitat

Alexander Gillespie


1. INTRODUCTION This chapter is about the threat that the loss of habitat represents to species and areas, and the response to this threat in international law. The loss of habitat is the foremost reason why species are becoming endangered and/or extinct. The international community has been responding to this need since the turn of the 20th century through a multitude of global and regional agreements which facilitate the protection of habitat. In addition to a series of conventions focused on the conservation needs of individual species, the World Heritage Convention, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of an International Importance and the Man and the Biosphere regime are particularly notable in their listing of protected areas. These regimes have been supplemented by regional agreements such as the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Habitats. The conservation of marine habitat is dealt with through fisheries-type organizations and the International Maritime Organization. 2. HABITAT LOSS According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, ‘habitat’ means the place or type of site where an organism or population naturally occurs.1 Historically, habitat loss was the second most important reason for species loss: the first reason being species introduction. This is no longer the case. Globally in the 21st century, and particularly in some regions such as Europe, habitat loss is the primary cause of species extinction.2 Habitat destruction is caused by numerous factors, but the most important is exponential human population growth. The mid-term projection for 2050 is 9.1 billion people, this...

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