Conservation of biodiversity is one of the three core objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). For this purpose, most countries have legislative frameworks in place for designating areas of land or sea as national parks. There are over 230,000 of these protected areas in the world, each sharing the broad aim to prohibit any human intervention that might alter its natural state.

The wealth of the Oceans – biodiversity in the Regional Seas – examples of the work of the UN Environment Programme in the neglected area of marine biodiversity

At the 2010 CBD Conference at Nagoya in Japan, it was agreed to set 2020 targets to increase protected areas to at least 17% of the world’s land area and 10% of the oceans, from the 2010 baseline of 12.7% and 1.6% respectively.

Prospects for achieving these targets are viewed as promising, with 15.0% of terrestrial and 7.0% of marine areas protected by the end of 2017. A major boost was the designation of the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area, the largest in the world, accounting for over half of all marine protection.

GOC SDG14 – An Ocean Opportunity – the Sustainable Development Goals approved in 2015 include a Goal dedicated to the oceans
from the Global Ocean

There has also been progress in overcoming the current legal void in the vast area that lies beyond coastal waters under national jurisdiction, about two thirds of the oceans. Preparatory work has concluded that an international treaty would be feasible and has recommended that the UN General Assembly should convene the necessary negotiations.

The effectiveness of conservation varies considerably and it is possible that only about half of existing protected areas can claim a reasonable degree of success in their biodiversity goal. Insatiable demand for natural resources, combined with weak law enforcement, limits capacity to prevent illegal poaching, logging and clearance for agriculture. Tourism improves the economics of protected areas but rarely without environmental consequences.

Independent of the goals of the CBD, many national authorities have established seed and gene banks where thousands of varieties are stored as protection against catastrophe. As these repositories are known to be fallible to violent conflict or natural disaster, duplicate specimens are frozen in the “doomsday vault,” the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in northern Norway.


more Biodiversity briefings (updated May 2018)
The Anthropocene
Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity Loss and Planetary Boundaries
Causes of Biodiversity Loss
Climate Change and Biodiversity
Solutions to Biodiversity Loss
Sustainable Development Goals for Biodiversity
Biodiversity Finance and Economics
Biodiversity Access and Benefit-Sharing
Source Material and Useful Links