• In simple terms, biodiversity is the number and variety of living organisms present in a specific geographical region. It includes various plants, animals and microorganisms, the genes they have and the ecosystems formed by them.
  • It relates to the diversity among living organisms on the earth, including the diversity within and between the species and that within and between the ecosystems they form. 


Biodiversity-related Conventions

Several international conventions focus on biodiversity issues: the Convention on Biological Diversity (year of entry into force: 1993), the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1975), the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2004), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (1971), the World Heritage Convention (1972) and the International Plant Protection Convention (1952), the International Whaling Commission (1946).


Convention on Biological Diversity

The objectives of the CBD are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from commercial and other utilization of genetic resources. The agreement covers all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources.


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Through its three appendices, the Convention accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 plant and animal species.


Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

The CMS, or the Bonn Convention aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. Parties to the CMS work together to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for the most endangered migratory species, by concluding regional multilateral agreements for the conservation and management of specific species or categories of species, and by undertaking co-operative research and conservation activities.


The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The objectives of the Treaty are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security. The Treaty covers all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, while its Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing covers a specific list of 64 crops and forages. The Treaty also includes provisions on Farmers’ Rights.


Convention on Wetlands (popularly known as the Ramsar Convention)

The Ramsar Convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The convention covers all aspects of wetland conservation and wise use, recognizing wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation in general and for the well-being of human communities.


World Heritage Convention (WHC)

The primary mission of the WHC is to identify and conserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage, by drawing up a list of sites whose outstanding values should be preserved for all humanity and to ensure their protection through a closer co-operation among nations.


International Whaling Commission (IWC)

The purpose of the IWC is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.


Biodiversity Governance in India

  • The Nagoya Protocol sought to ensure commercial and research utilisation of genetic resources led to sharing its benefits with the government and the community that conserved such resources.
  • India’s Biological Diversity Act 2002 (BD Act), is in close synergy with the Nagoya Protocol.
  • The BD Act was hailed as an important step towards preserving India’s vast biodiversity, as it recognised the sovereign right of countries over its natural resources.
  • Under the BD Act, an important regulatory mechanism was the emphasis on access and benefit sharing (ABS) to local populations.
  • The BD Act seeks to address issues of managing bio-resources in the most decentralised manner possible. The BD Act envisages three layered structures: the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, the state biodiversity boards (SSBs) at the state level and biodiversity management committees (BMCs) at the local level.
  • It assumes significance because it imposes prohibitions on the transfer of genetic material originating from India without specific approval from competent authorities.
  • The act also strengthens the country’s stand with respect to anyone claiming an intellectual property right over biodiversity-related knowledge.


Saving biodiversity, securing earth’s future


The UN Convention on Biological Diversity has released its fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook report which says that none of the 20 agreed conservation targets of the past 10 years could be fully met by the world . Experts believe that all nations will now have to implement the ambitious new target of protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030 – popularly known as 30×30 target – under the UN Convention.

Aichi Targets:

The ‘Aichi Targets’ were adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference. It is a short term plan provides a set of 20ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets. They can be divided into:

  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
  • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.

The fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook report:

  • It published by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in September 2020, warns starkly that the world has so far failed to halt the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems.
  • The report provides a global summary of progress made towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
  • The report shows that none of the Aichi Biodiversity targets, which are a set of 20 targets adopted in 2010 by parties around biodiversity, have been met.
  • However, some progress has been made in countries and areas, especially where appropriate policies were put into place.
  • In 2021 the world will have a new chance to renew our relationship with nature by adopting a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework during the CBD fifteenth meeting of parties (COP).


Highlights and Analysis:

  • Targets: None of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets has been achieved in full, with only 6 partially met (targets 9, 11, 16, 17, 19 and 20).
  • Significantly worsening trends are reported especially in targets relating to the drivers of biodiversity loss and to the current state of biodiversity itself.
  • Most progress has been made in the following areas:
  • Almost 100 countries have incorporated biodiversity values into national accounting systems (target 2).
  • Deforestation has fallen by about a third compared to the previous decade (target 5).
  • Good fisheries management policies implemented have led to marine fish stocks being maintained or rebuilt (target 6).
  • Progress made on eradication of invasive alien species from islands, and of the targeting of priority species and pathways to avoid future invasive species introductions (target 9).
  • There has been significant expansion of the protected area estate, increasing over the last decade from 10% to at least 15% terrestrially, and from about 3% to at least 7% in marine areas. The protection of areas of particular importance for biodiversity has also increased from 29% to 44% (target 11).
  • Conservation actions have reduced the number of extinctions without which extinctions of birds and mammals in the past decade would likely have been two to four times higher (target 12).
  • The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is now fully operational in at least 87 countries (target 16).
  • National biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) have been updated in line with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 by 170 countries, i.e. 85% of CBD Parties.
  • There has been a substantial increase in the data and information on biodiversity available to citizens, researchers and policy makers, including through the efforts of citizen science (target 19).
  • Financial resources available for biodiversity through international flows have doubled (target 20).
  • National targets are not well aligned to the Aichi targets, in terms of scope and the level of ambition (only 23% of the targets are well aligned).
  • Subsidies: Government subsidies to agriculture, fossil fuels and fishing are having a harmful effect.
  • Subsidies need to be rebalanced to promote healthy, sustainable diets and reduce food waste.
  • The report prioritizes several actions that need to be addressed to achieve the 2050 Vision:
  • Efforts to conserve and restore biodiversity need to be scaled up. These need to combine increases in the extent and effectiveness of well-connected protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, largescale restoration of degraded habitats, and improvements in the condition of nature across farmed and urban landscapes as well as inland water bodies, coasts and oceans.
  • Efforts to keep climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius and close to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels are needed.
  • Nature-based solutions can play an important role of adaptation to climate change.
  • Remaining pressures driving biodiversity loss must be addressed, including invasive alien species, pollution and the unsustainable exploitation of biodiversity especially in marine and inland water ecosystems.
  • Transformations need to be achieved in the production of goods and services, especially food. This will include adopting agricultural methods that can meet growing global demand while imposing fewer negative impacts on the environment and reducing the pressure to convert more land to production.
  • Demand for increased food production must be limited by adopting healthier diets and reducing food waste, including limiting the consumption of other material goods and services affecting biodiversity, for example in forestry, energy and provision of fresh water.


Benefits of Biodiversity conservation:

  • Nature provides ecosystem services which are vital for food production, for clean air and water, provision of fuel for millions, absorption of carbon in the atmosphere, and climate moderation.
  • Conservation of biological diversity leads to conservation of essential ecological diversity to preserve the continuity of food chains.
  • The genetic diversity of plants and animals is preserved.
  • It ensures the sustainable utilisation of life support systems on earth.
  • It provides a vast knowledge of potential use to the scientific community.
  • A reservoir of wild animals and plants is preserved, thus enabling them to be introduced, if need be, in the surrounding areas.
  • Biological diversity provides immediate benefits to the society such as recreation and tourism.
  • Biodiversity conservation serves as an insurance policy for the future.


Associated Issues

  • Exclusion of Agriculture & Conventional Practices: The Nagoya Protocol noted that each party shall consider the importance of genetic resources for food and agriculture and their special role for food security. Thus, traditional agriculture and conventional practices are exempted from the purview of benefit-sharing. Due to this, India has been a victim of misappropriation or bio-piracy of its genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. Well-known examples of this include neem and turmeric. Further, the challenge would be to protect the intellectual property rights of the traditional farmer who is under constant threat from external agencies.
  • Erosion Traditional Breeding Systems: As industrialisation advanced, so did commercial agriculture and the need for more efficient breeds increased. This led to a gradual reduction of traditional breeding systems and a consequent loss of agro biodiversity. Further, there was a steady loss of traditional knowledge associated with ancient breeding systems.
  • No Adequate Protection for Animal Genetic Resources: Access to crop genetic resources is not covered under the purview of Nagoya Protocol, it is protected under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. However, for animal genetic resources, an equivalent instrument is absent.
  • No Recognition of Traditional Knowledge: The main hindrance to protection of local biodiversity is the absence of recognition of traditional knowledge and a lack of legal protection against usurping the knowledge of indigenous communities.


What is IUCN red list of threatened species?

It is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species.

How are species categorised? It uses a set of quantitative criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species.

The IUCN Red List Categories:

The IUCN Red List Categories define the extinction risk of species assessed. Nine categories extend from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct).

Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU) species are considered to be threatened with extinction.

The IUCN system uses a set of five quantitative criteria to assess the extinction risk of a given species. In general, these criteria consider:

  1. The rate of population decline.
  2. The geographic range.
  3. Whether the species already possesses a small population size.
  4. Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area.
  5. Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild.

Value addition for Mains:

Utility of the red list:

It brings into focus the ongoing decline of Earth’s biodiversity and the influence humans have on life on the planet. It provides a globally accepted standard with which to measure the conservation status of species over time.

●      Scientists can analyze the percentage of species in a given category and how these percentages change over time; they can also analyze the threats and conservation measures that underpin the observed trends.


Critically endangered animals


  • Elvira rat (Cremnomys elvira)
  • Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis)
  • Jenkins’ shrew (Crocidura jenkinsi)
  • Nicobar shrew (Crocidura nicobarica)
  • Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla)
  • Malabar large-spotted civet (Viverra civettina)
  • Kashmir stag or hangul (Cervus canadensis hanglu)
  • Madras spotted skink (Barkudia insularis)
  • Northern river terrapin (Batagur baska)
  • Red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur kachuga)
  • Cnemaspis anaikattiensis
  • Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  • Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
  • Ghats wart frog (Fejervarya murthii)
  • Jeypore ground gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis)
  • Gundia Indian frog (Indirana gundia)
  • Toad-skinned frog (Indirana phrynoderma)
  • Charles Darwin’s frog (Ingerana charlesdarwini)
  • Rao’s torrt frog (Micrixalus kottigeharensis)
  • Dattatreya night frog (Nyctibatrachus dattatreyaensis)
  • Sacred grove bushfrog (Philautus sanctisilvaticus)
  • Amboli bush frog (Pseudophilautus amboli)
  • White-spotted bush frog (Raorchestes chalazodes)
  • Green eyed bushfrog (Raorchestes chlorosomma)
  • Griet bush frog (Raorchestes griet)
  • Kaikatti bushfrog (Raorchestes kaikatti)
  • Mark’s bushfrog (Raorchestes marki)
  • Munnar bush frog (Raorchestes munnarensis)
  • Ponmudi bush frog (Raorchestes ponmudi)
  • Resplendent shrubfrog (Raorchestes resplendens)
  • Shillong bubble-nest frog (Raorchestes shillongensis)
  • Anaimalai flying frog (Rhacophorus pseudomalabaricus)
  • Sushil’s bushfrog (Raorchestes sushili)
  • Amboli toad (Xanthophryne tigerina)
  • Ghats wart frog (Zakerana murthii)
  • Namdapha flying squirrel
  • White-bellied heron (Ardea insignis)
  • Great Indian bustard (Ardeotis niriceps)
  • Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri)
  • Spoon-billed sandpiper (Calidris pygmaea)
  • White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
  • Indian vulture (Gyps indicus)
  • Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
  • Bengal florican c(Houbaropsis bengalensis)
  • Bugun liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum)
  • Himalayan quail (Ophrysia superciliosa)
  • Jerdon’s courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus)
  • Red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)
  • Sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarius)
  • Christmas Island Frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi)
  • Pink-Headed Duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea)
  • Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola)
  • Siberian Crane(Grus leucogeranus)

Endangered animals

  • Red panda (Ailurus fulgens)
  • Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis)
  • Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
  • Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
  • Wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee)
  • Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus)
  • Dhole (Cuon alpinus)
  • Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus)
  • Kolar leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros hypophyllus)
  • Lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus)
  • White-bellied musk deer (Moschus leucogaster)
  • Servant mouse (Mus famulus)
  • Mandelli’s mouse-eared bat (Myotis sicarius)
  • Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius)
  • Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica)
  • Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
  • Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica)
  • Gee’s golden langur (Trachypithecus geei)
  • Nicobar treeshrew (Tupaia nicobarica)
  • Sangai (Rucervus eldii eldii)
  • Forest owlet (Athene blewitti)
  • Steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis)
  • Great knot (Calidris tenuirostris)
  • Masked finfoot (Heliopais personatus)
  • Lesser florican (Sypheotides indicus)
  • Manipur bush-quail (Perdicula manipurensis)
  • Greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius)
  • White-bellied blue robin (Myiomela albiventris)
  • Nilgiri blue robin (Myiomela major)
  • White-winged duck (Asarcornis scutulata)
  • White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
  • Green peafowl (Pavo muticus)
  • Narcondam hornbill (Rhyticero)
  • Nordmann’s greenshank (Tringa guttifer)
  • Black-bellied tern (Sterna acuticauda)
  • Black-chinned laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni)
  • Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Vulnerable animals

  • brown bear
  • Gaur (Bos gaurus)
  • Four-horned antelope or chousingha (Tetracerus quadricornis)
  • Oriental small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea)
  • white-chested bear (Ursus thibetanus)
  • Yak (Bos grunhniens)
  • Takin (Budorcas taxicolor)
  • Barasingha (Rucervus duvaucelii)
  • Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
  • Dugong (Dugong dugon)
  • Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus)
  • Stump-tailed macaque (Macaca arctoides)
  • Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata)
  • Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
  • Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)
  • Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
  • Snow leopard (Uncia uncia)
  • Nilgiri marten (Martes gwatkinsii)
  • Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus)


Way Forward

  • Promoting Agricultural Societies: Traditionally, most agricultural societies in India integrated preservation of crop species into the social and religious milieu. This has helped preserve hundreds of species that would have been lost otherwise with the rise of commercial agriculture. Thus, there is a need for promotion and preservation of such agricultural societies.
  • Integration of International Treaties: ABS implementation of Nagoya Protocol cannot work in isolation and thus must be commensurate with other international treaties.Therefore, integration between ABS and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) need to consider the legislative, administrative and policy measures that cross each other’s path.
  • People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR): PBR should aim to document folk knowledge of status, uses, history, ongoing changes and forces driving changes in biodiversity resources, and people’s perceptions of how these resources should be managed. PBRs can be useful to preserve the rights of farmers or communities over the traditional knowledge they may hold over a particular variety. Additionally, PBRs provide geographical identity to the bioresources and can be useful in providing a tool for clarification when disputes over biopiracy and intellectual property rights arise.
  • Engaging Industries: The integration of legislations such as corporate social responsibility with ABS can be beneficial to industries who wish to closely share benefits accrued from use of biological resources.



1)Do you agree that the benefits of biodiversity far exceed the costs of current levels of biodiversity protection? Explain the impacts of biodiversity on economic activities of a country.(250 words)

2) “To ensure that development does not degrade lives, it is imperative to mainstream biodiversity and ecosystem concerns in policy-making”. Critically analyse(250 words)

3) What is Species Recovery Programme?

4) Name any five critically endangered animal species from different parts of India and analyse the causes for their critical status. (200 Words)