Development agencies should support occasional broader studies of the operation of economic systems as they affect biological diversity. These studies should focus on macroeconomic policy and development strategy—the operation of the economic system locally or regionally—in attempting to provide more generalized conclusions about the relationship between development activities and natural resource management. Studies should analyze the impact of these activities on the conservation of biological resources for agriculture and other economic activities, for their amenity values, and for their influence on future ecosystem stability, including the effects on regional and global climate change, watershed maintenance, river basin flood regimes, and coastal zone (marine, reef, tourism, fishing) resources.
In the past decade, the conservation of biological diversity has come to be understood as an essential aspect of sustainable development worldwide. Biodiversity is a basic determinant of the structure and function of all ecosystems and provides the foundation on which the future well-being of human society rests. Research must be expanded and strengthened to improve our understanding of biodiversity, its conservation, and its role in building sustainable human societies.
Many of the nations that are home to the highest concentrations of biological diversity are also crippled by persistent poverty and high rates of population growth, which work against conservation in two ways: (1) by increasing the pressure for inappropriate and harmful land use, and (2) by limiting the ability of individuals and governments to take the steps necessary to halt the degradation of ecosystems and the loss of diversity. International development agencies can and must play a special role in overcoming these obstacles. They are often the most significant sources of funding for human resource development and exert important influence on national and regional policies, economic incentives, and resource use practices that affect the status of biodiversity. Support for research on biodiversity is therefore a critical responsibility of development agencies as they assist client countries in improving the management of their economies and their natural resources.
We need to understand a great deal more about what, why, and how to conserve, and the need is urgent. Although this report focuses on that need, it is also premised on the conviction that research should not serve as a substitute for immediate action to stem the loss of genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity. Rather, research must serve to inform, supplement, and improve these efforts.