Lecture 1: Biodiversity

The term biodiversity, in its simplest, can be defined as the diversity or range of living organisms within an area or habitat. It describes the totality of species and genes of an ecosystem within that area. The forming of natural barriers isolating flora and fauna from one another and species exploiting vacant niches, has contributed to the incredible diversity present in each and every corner of the planet. The term itself was first used by wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond F. Dasmann in 1968. Over the last few decades it has become an increasingly important concept , and has been adapted by biologists, conservationists and political leaders world wide and concerns grow over the extinction of many species, mainly due to encroching climate change.

In recent years, it has been recognised that global biodiversity must be protected and various international treaties (
Rio declaration, Bonn Convention, WACA 81, WRA 91) and laws have been devised to strive for enforcing sufficient protection. The most renouned biodiversity act was devised during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and developed the UN Convention on Biodiversity. This international convention was signed by 150 countries, including the UK where the treaty was translated into the UK Biodiversity Action Plan & subsequent BAPs.

Humans are almost totally dependent on the environment for goods and services. We rely on it for the production of food, water, and the air we breath. When considering biodiversity from an economic perspective, the following values are often attributed to the term;
-Direct use value
-Indirect use value
-Option value
-Existence value

Although these values help others understand the value of biodiversity from an anthropocentric stand point, these terms are redundant in explaining why even the smallest or uglyest bug is worth saving (
Pullin, A.S.2002.Conservation biology. Cambridge University Press).
Perhaps it is worth considering another value of biodiversity....Pullin (2002) describes it as the "wild experience", an inate spiritual value that most humans feel towards the environment.

Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act, 2006

This act is commonly referred to as NERC, 2006 & is important in English legislation for highlighting the value of biodiversity. Section 40 specifically refers to the conservation of biodiversity. The act states that every public authority has a duty to conserve biodiversity through a range of activities, such as; conserving & restoring habitats aswell as their species, protecting species & habitats, developing & implementing policies, engaging with businesses & the public, conducting research, raising awareness of biodiversity. In short, public authorities have a "bioduty" & must consider conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their duties/actions.

UK Priority Species & Habitats

In 2008 1150 priority species & 65 habitats were listed under the UK BAP. Of these species, 87 are marine, & include the following;

- Blue fin tuna Thunnus thynnus
- Mackerel Scomber scombrus
- Common Sole Solea solea
- Angel shark Squatina squatina

- Plaice Pleuronectes platessa
- White skate Rostroraja alba
- Herring Clupea harengus

All of the above were highlighted as still, despite the scientific concern they are appearing in fishmongers and restaurants....essentially on OUR dinner plates.
Practically every species of cetacean & sea turtle present in UK waters also appear on the list. The full list is available here.