, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp 699-727

Priorities for conserving global species richness and endemism

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The Convention on Biological Diversity aims to encourage and enable countries to conserve biological diversity, to use its components sustainably and to share benefits equitably. Species richness and endemism are two key attributes of biodiversity that reflect the complexity and uniqueness of natural ecosystems. National data on vertebrates and higher plants indicate global concentrations of biodiversity and can assist in defining priorities for action. Projections indicate that species and ecosystems will be at maximum risk from human activities during the next few decades. Prompt action by the world community can minimise the eventual loss of species. Highest priorities should be to: (i) strengthen the management of ecosystems containing a large proportion of global biodiversity; (ii) help developing countries complete their biodiversity strategies and action plans, monitor their own biodiversity, and establish and maintain adequate national systems of conservation areas; (iii) support actions at the global level, providing benefit to all countries in managing their own biodiversity. Generally, resources will best be spent in safeguarding ecosystems and habitats that are viable and important for global biodiversity, and which are threatened by factors that can be controlled cost-effectively. Other important criteria are representativeness, complementarity and insurance.