Conservation of Biological Diversity

Regulatory Approach

There are several regulatory approaches to maintaining biodiversity, including:

  • establish protected areas
  • prohibition or regulation of taking of particular species
  • establishing seasons when the taking of species is permitted
  • regulate the taking or exploitation of a particular species
  • prohibition of the international trade in species
  • managing habitats and ecosystems
  • prohibition on methods or means of taking species
  • prohibition on introducing new species

1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

1973 CITES the primary regulation for the preservation of biodiversity. The primary purpose of the CITES is international cooperation to protect wild flora and fauna against over-exploitation through international trade.  CITES applies regulatory techniques by listing species – and the level of protection for the species depends on the Appendix in which it is listed.

CITES contains several exemptions that provide bypassing regulations applying to species listed in the Appendix and include provisions on the adoption of rules for marking specimens to assist with identification.

1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The 1992 CBD also applies to all species. The objectives of the CBD are:

  1. Conservation of biological diversity
  2. Sustainable use of components
  3. Equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources

States are responsible for conserving their biological diversity and using their biological resources. The CBD includes an obligation of the parties to cooperate for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond their national jurisdiction and other matters of mutual interest.

Parties must develop national conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for both in situ and ex situ conservation. The convention also includes general obligations on research, training, public education, awareness, exchange of information, and technical and scientific cooperation.

The CBD set particular targets on conservation, which as of 2010, had not been met. The CBD also provided financial incentives for developing countries to meet the agreed total costs of implementing the measures to meet the requirements of the CBD.


The United Nations’ initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) focuses on preserving forest biodiversity in developing countries, involving indigenous peoples, other stakeholders, and forest-dependent communities.

Approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) annually are caused by deforestation. REDD works with developing nations to actively manage forest and forest stocks.

2000 Cartegena Protocol

The focus of the Cartegena Protocol is regulating the transboundary movement of living-modified organisms (LMOs). The principal mechanism for regulating LMOs is the advanced, informed procedure (AIP). The protocol includes a detailed notification procedure. Handling LMOs requires the application of international rules and standards. The protocol requires parties to take necessary measures so that the LMOs subject to transboundary movement are handled, packaged, and transported under safety conditions.

The 2012 Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol to the Cartegena Protocol establishes a claim for countries importing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and makes the exporting country liable for any potential damage caused by imported GMOs.

1946 International Whaling Convention

The purpose of the 1946 Whaling Convention provides for the proper conservation of whale stocks and protection against overfishing and maintaining the optimal level of whale stocks. The convention includes a schedule establishing the obligations under the convention – which prohibit all commercial whaling. Parties may grant a permit authorizing a kill for scientific purposes and aboriginal subsistence whaling.

Other Key Agreements

Other vital agreements regulating biodiversity include:

  • 1971 Ramsar Convention on preservation and wise use of wetland habitats
  • 1972 World Heritage Convention for the protection of natural heritage, which constitutes a world heritage as defined by the parties
  • 1979 Bonn Convention – preservation of migratory endangered species
  • 1994 Desertification Convention – protection of lands and combating drought
  • 1994 International Tropical Timber Agreement – preservation and development of sustainable harvesting of tropical timber
  • 1992 Forest Principles – Adopted at the Rio Conference and applies to all forests in a holistic and balanced manner. Provides financial incentives for sustainable management of forests and aligns with Millennium Development Goals and poverty eradication.
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