Biodiversity – A Framework for Understanding

Image: Heaphy River, West Coast South Island, copyright Judith Roper-Lindsay

The following framework for understanding biodiversity was developed by EIANZ Ecology as a means of understanding a term that is often ill-defined and most commonly confused with species richness. It is included in the final version of the paper on Biodiversity Management.
  • Biodiversity management depends on a series of principles. These are:
    - That biodiversity is conserved, in situ, across all levels and scales - structure, function
    and composition are conserved at site, regional, state and national scales;
    - that examples of all ecological communities are adequately managed for conservation;
  • - that ecological communities are managed to support and enhance viable populations of flora and fauna and ecological functions.
  • Biodiversity values are an integral part of triple-bottom-line decision-making, whatever the scale, nature and location of a project.
  • Irrespective of species loss, the true economic impact of biodiversity loss needs to be conveyed to the public.
  • The benefits of biodiversity need to be specified in terms of its importance to sustainable development, resource and ecosystem services management.
  • Better understanding of the link between our environment and our social and economic well-being, will mean more acceptance by the community for positive management.
  • There are no activities where it is not possible to take account of biodiversity. It is fundamentally critical to the maintenance of our systems.
  • Biodiversity management is key to economic and social welfare benefits, both now and in the future, enabling our countries to remain globally and sustainably competitive.
  • Biodiversity management is not just about protecting particular species of flora and fauna (e.g. threatened species). It is about maintaining functioning systems.
  • Loss of biodiversity has limited the planet’s ability to sequester carbon we consume and provide enough water to support a growing population. If we only invest in technology (at the continuing expense of natural capital) to address water and climate change problems, this will not bring us back to that point of equilibrium. Biodiversity loss needs to be reversed in addition to these measures.
  • In EIA, biodiversity should always be considered early, leading to more robust development outcomes and mitigation, less conflict at the tail-end of EIAs and less inconsistent decision-making.
  • Biodiversity performance outcomes cannot necessarily be measured via single quantitative measures. Some of these measures may have to be made indirectly, or using sophisticated and or long-term methods.
  • There will always be insufficient information where biodiversity is concerned. Risk and uncertainty are inherent in all decision-making for biodiversity. This reality needs to be accepted so it can be managed.
  • In the context of land management, ecology is the key to understanding biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity is everywhere – not just in reserve systems. Even heavily modified areas may require attention.

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