"At the very moment when modern science is about to allow us to reap benefits from our biological resources to an extent never before dreamt of, major portions of it are about to be forfeited permanently. Accordingly, and just in the nick of time, biological diversity, its peril and promise, is edging onto the development agenda." With these words, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, executive vice president of the World Wildlife Fund (U.S.) and of the Conservation Foundation, went to the heart of the matter - the need to recognize and preserve the world's "biological capital. "
Lovejoy reminded the audience of the incalculable wealth represented by the earth's spectacular variety of plant and animal life. Each species contributes to our understanding of the science of biology and to the ability of that science to pass on benefits via the more applied life sciences. Only by learning more about the full array of plant and animal life is it possible to understand the relationships between species and the controls of biological and ecological processes.
We are at a pivotal moment, stressed Lovejoy. "We are entering a period of potential extinction without equal during our history as a species." For example, the tropical forests of the world have been reduced to about half their original extent with an average annual deforestation rate of about 72,000 square kilometers. Without knowing exactly how many species exist, one can only guess that l0,000 species, mostly undescribed, are being extinguished each year.
Because there are only one to two decades left to do the job, the conservation of biological diversity must be undertaken aggressively, emphasized Lovejoy. Moreover, the driving forces for destruction, such as population growth, and the environmental impact of technology and development, must be addressed as part of the solution. He cautioned, however, that "efforts to protect biological diversity will fail if solely use-oriented," and he stated emphatically that the protection of biological diversity must never be viewed as a choice between conservation and human welfare, indicating that environmental degradation has gone too far.
He suggested several steps to address the problem:
Biological Diversity: A Frequent Subject of Studies of the Board on Science and Technology for International Development
Tropical Legumes: Resources for the Future (1979)
The Winged Bean: A High Protein Crop for the Tropics, Second ed. (1981)
The Water Buffalo: New Prospects for an Underutilized Animal (1981)
Amaranth: Modern Prospects for an Ancient Crop (1983)
Little-Known Asian Animals with a Pro-mising Economic Future (1983)
Firewood Crops: Shrub and Tree Species for Energy, Production. Vol. I (1980); Vol. II (1983)
Mangium and Other Fast-Growing Acacias for the Humid Tropics (1983)
Calliandra: A Versatile Small Tree for the Humid Tropics (1983)
Casuarinas: Nitrogen-Fixing Trees for Adverse Sites (1983)
Leucaena: Promising Forage and Tree Crop in Developing Countries' Second ed. (1984)
Jojoba: New Crop for Arid Lands (1985)
Quality-Protein Maize (1988)
Triticale: A Promising Addition to the World's Cereal Grains (1988)
Microlivestock: Little-Known Small Animals with a Promising Economic Future (Forthcoming)
Examples of Activities in Biological Diversity Supported by USAID in fiscal Year 1987
Latin America and the Caribbean
Consultative Group on Biological Diversity
With encouragement from USAID and the National Research Council, a Consultative Group on Biological Diversity was formed in 1987, with initial membership of USAID and a number of private U.S. foundations that support work in both conservation and development. Founding private members include the Ford Foundation, C.S. Fund, Alton Jones Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Tinker Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and The Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The purpose of the Group, which is currently developing its membership and mode of operation, is to enhance financial support for and collaboration on the conservation of biological diversity in developing countries. It is expected that the Group will expand to include other public and private donors and to establish close relationships with developing countries and conservation organizations.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, with funding from USAID, is establishing a secretariat to support the Group in its organizational and program development phase. Initial efforts will include sharing information, identifying priorities and biological diversity conservation programs that merit donor support, and developing information on nongovernmental sources of funds.
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