Article 2:

(Box) National Biodiversity Protection Acts around the World

By Martha J. Groom, University of Washington, Bothell

Many countries maintain endangered species lists, and work to recover these species. Typically, species are brought forward for consideration for listing, as they are in the U.S. Criteria for listing vary, but tend to either follow the U.S. model for designations, the IUCN categories and criteria (e.g., Australia, South Africa), or a combination of these (Canada).

Some nations have adopted standards broader than those of the U.S., encompassing both species and ecosystems, as well as more proactively targeting reduction of threats. Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) was passed in 1999 and provides for listing both individual species and threatened ecological communities, and developing recovery plans for threatened species. Australia also adopts a proactive stance in identifying major mechanisms of threats to species and ecological communities, and targeting efforts toward reducing those threats, which should contribute both to recovery and to protecting currently stable species or communities so they will not need to be listed in the future. Similarly, Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) of 2002 protects threatened species and their critical habitats, using an approach modeled after the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), but broadened to ensure a landscape-scale approach to biodiversity conservation.

South Africa’s Biodiversity Act, which is a recent addition to the National Environmental Management Act of 1998, provides for the management and conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity, including national protection of endangered species and ecosystems, guiding sustainable and equitable use of indigenous biological resources, and the creation of an overseeing agency, the South African National Biodiversity Institute. This new agency has an ambitious set of tasks, which underscore the far-reaching intent of this legislation: (1) monitor the status of biodiversity, threatened and protected species and ecosystems, and listed invasives; (2) conduct research and serve as an advisory body on the entire spectrum of biodiversity issues from genetically modified organisms to ecosystem impacts; (3) oversee biodiversity education, and (4) reduce threatening processes ultimately responsible for biodiversity declines and their impacts on human welfare. Other countries have similar provisions, including India (under the National Biodiversity Act of 2002, and related legislation), and Bhutan (National Biodiversity Act of 2003). Uniting all of these efforts is recognition of the importance of monitoring the status of biodiversity and threatening processes to conserve biological richness for the benefit of social welfare, and to protect national heritage.