Biodiversity Data Sourcebook from the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC)
Entry ID: WCMC_149

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Summary
Abstract: This sourcebook of biodiversity data was released in part as a
contribution to the First Conference of the Parties to the
Convention on Biological Diversity (Bahamas, 28 November - 9
December) in anticipation that it will provide information of
interest and relevance.

An extended introduction to many theoretical and applied aspects
of biological diversity was provided in Global Biodiversity:
status of the Earth's living resources (WCMC, 1992; funded
largely by the UK Overseas Development Administration). That
document, which benefitted from collaboration with many
organisations and individual scientists, was produced at the time
of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The purpose of the book was to
provide conceptual background and baseline data both to
practitioners in the biodiversity field, and to all concerned
persons who needed a guide into that complex and highly topical
area.

Given the grounding previously provided in Global Biodiversity,
the present volume concentrates on data rather than text and
provides an illustrative set of data tables, in part revised and
expanded from the earlier volume. The choice of data to be
included and the manner of presentation have been determined with
the likely end-users borne strongly in mind. With this aim, most
data are presented in standardised tables by country, so that
they are immediately available to users working at a national
level but can also be placed easily in regional and global
contexts. Overall, they give a good indication of the global
availability of information on many aspects of biodiversity,
drawing attention to some of the gaps that exist and to the
regional imbalances in the distribution of biodiversity and the
resources that have been devoted to its assessment and study.


Description of contents
-----------------------

Seven of the nine tables in the sourcebook are based on columns of
country-level data; the food crop and livestock tables are arranged
taxonomically. The following descriptive material is derived from
the text accompanying each table, and is intended to indicate the
scope of the data presented.

Table 1 - provides working estimates of the number of species in
selected taxa present in each country of the world, and the
number of those species thought to be endemic to each country.

Biodiversity may be evaluated at several different levels (eg.
genes, species, habitats, ecosystems). It is widely accepted
that, of all these, the species is the single most useful unit
to use in biodiversity assessments, whether these are carried out
locally, nationally, regionally or globally. Species best fill
this role because, of all the possibilities, they best reflect
observable diversity in nature and there is at least working
agreement as to their definition and content. While counts of
species numbers may reasonably reflect the biological richness
of a given area, they do not necessarily reflect its uniqueness.
The latter is an equally significant measure of an area's
importance in a wider context. Probably the single most useful
measure of an area's uniqueness is a count or estimate of the
number of endemic species it contains. A species is endemic to
some defined area if it is confined entirely to that area.

Table 2 - shows the number of globally-threatened species present
in each country.

In order to try and maintain maximum biodiversity in the most
efficient way possible, it is important to know which aspects of
it are under most immediate threat. One approach is to assess the
status of individual species and try to determine the degree of
threat they are under (ie. the likelihood of their going extinct
in a given length of time). Because much information is required,
global analyses of threatened species status have only been
carried out for a relatively few groups of organisms. The birds
(Class Aves) form the only large higher taxon in which the
conservation status of all member species has been assessed; the
birds have now been subject to two such assessments; about half
of the world's mammals have been assessed. An assessment of the
conservation status of species is fundamental to setting
priorities among possible management actions. Disregarding other
factors that need to be considered in assigning priorities, those
species regarded by IUCN as globally threatened are of major
concern. At the country level, it is clearly desirable for
conservation or management agencies to know which species
regarded as globally threatened are endemic to the country in
question because these agencies bear special responsibility for
them. Threatened endemic species should be highest national
priorities in terms of preventing loss of global biodiversity.

Table 3 - indicates for which countries an authoritative
published listing of threatened species, or compilation of
information in the standard 'Red Data Book' format, is available,
and which groups of organisms are assessed.

The intention is to show in general terms where efforts have been
made toward assessment of the status of species at the national,
as opposed to global, level. Given that a central goal of
national biodiversity conservation is maintenance of maximum
species diversity, one important task is to assess which elements
of the national flora and fauna are most at risk of extinction.
Until quite recently only a small number of countries had
produced a national assessment of species status. This activity
has been largely restricted to developed countries; in general,
these countries are relatively low in diversity, have well-
inventoried floras and faunas, and have the required
infrastructure. Most publications have been patterned after the
IUCN global Red Data Books and Red Lists. Now a growing number
of less developed countries have undertaken this task, and more
may be expected to do so within the framework of the Convention
on Biological Diversity. By virtue of monitoring programmes,
several countries have produced revised editions of their earlier
Red Data Books.

Table 4 - presents data on principal food crops and closely
related wild species; one intention is to integrate data on uses
and diversity of the former with information on the status and
distribution of the latter.

Plants are used as sources of medicinal products, timber and as
ornamentals; their products figure in a very wide variety of
manufacturing processes; fuelwood provides a source of energy for
rural communities. Most fundamentally, plants are the basis of
world food supply, either for direct human consumption or as
livestock feed. Wild plants began to be modified into crops for
agricultural production, probably independently in different
continents, between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago; the later part
of this period also saw the appearance of domestic animal
populations. Of the more than 250,000 flowering plant species,
around 200 have been domesticated as food plants, of which 25-30
are crops of major world importance, judged largely by global
production and economic criteria.

Table 5 - presents information on the major domestic mammals and
closely related wild species; the intention is to integrate data
on uses, history and diversity of the former with information on
the status and distribution of the latter.

At the local level, a great many wild animal species are used
primarily to meet subsistence needs, the kind depending largely
on availability and convenience, and to some extent, tradition.
Globally, a small number of animal species are used in extensive
ranching or farming systems, while fewer still are used in
domestic livestock production. Breeds of domestic goat, sheep,
cattle, pigs and domestic fowl are cosmopolitan in distribution
and the basis for most of the world's agricultural animal food
production. The four principal mammalian livestock species have
diversified under more than 5,000 years of domestication and
artificial selection into more than 2,000 recognised breeds, each
with unique characteristics. The pool of genetic resources
represented by domestic animal diversity is an essential basis
for efficient and sustainable food production, and is likely to
be of increasing importance in the more demanding production
environments.

Table 6 - presents a wide range of data on the following topics:
coast length, EEZ area, fisheries production, mangrove forest,
seagrasses, coral reefs, marine fish richness, marine turtle
nesting, inshore cetaceans, other marine mammals, protected area
numbers and extent, institutions and marine convention
membership.

Oceans cover 71% of the world's surface. They hold a significant
proportion of living biomass and play an ill-understood though
evidently vital part in regulating climate. Much remains to be
discovered about the diversity of life in the seas. It is well
known that diversity at the highest taxonomic levels is much
greater in the sea than on land or in freshwater, but is has
generally been assumed that species diversity is much lower than
on land. Recent work indicates that this may not be the case:
studies of some marine environments, particularly bottom
sediments, show extremely high levels of invertebrate species
diversity, the great majority comprising previously unknown
species. The seas provide many biological resources used by
humans. In the form of marine fisheries they provide by far the
most important source of wild protein, a source which is of
particular importance to many subsistence communities around the
world and which makes use of a wide range of animal species,
notably fishes, molluscs and crustaceans. Marine organisms are
also proving extremely fruitful sources of pharmaceuticals and
other materials used in medicines. More minor although locally
important uses include exploitation of coastal resources for
building materials and industrial products. Traditionally, all
marine resources outside territorial waters (usually up to 12
nautical miles from shore) were considered 'open-access'
resources. This covered most of the world's oceans and virtually
all deep-sea areas. In the past few decades many open-ocean
resources have been gravely depleted leading to the collapse of
a number of fisheries, sometimes bringing individuals and nations
into conflict. With the introduction of the Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the
Sea (UNCLOS), which allows nations control over resources
(including living resources) in an area up to 200 nautical miles
offshore, a far greater proportion of the world's seas now come
within the control of individual nations. Access to marine
resources is not equitably distributed amongst the world's
nations. Most obviously, some 39 states are landlocked, ie. have
no seaboard. Those that do have seaboards show great variation
in length of coastline, and area of territorial waters and EEZs;
they also show great variation in their capacities to exploit
marine resources.

Table 7 - collates a wide range of data on forests in the
tropics, including: forest and woodland area, deforestation,
forest cover (from FAO data and digital maps at WCMC),
fragmentation, broad description, importance for biodiversity,
factors affecting the forest, and area protected.

Forests in the tropics, particularly moist forests or
rainforests, are widely held to be the most biologically diverse
habitats on earth. Correspondingly, loss of these habitats
through deforestation or degradation is considered one of the
most important conservation problems today. Tropical forests vary
enormously in their composition, complexity and diversity.
Classifying, categorising and measuring them is an extremely
difficult task. There is not even a single, universally accepted
definition of what constitutes a forest, let alone a 'swamp
forest' or 'cloud forest' or 'monsoon forest' or any of the many
other types and classes of forests that have been named. These
problems are further compounded when attempts are made to measure
changes to forests. It is also apparent that the biological
diversity of dry forests has often been under-estimated.

Table 8 - provides data on the number and area of national
protected areas in each of the UN management categories I-V, and
an indication of the total country area under such protection.

Most countries have developed systems of protected areas and
these make a vital contribution to the conservation of the
world's natural and cultural resources. Protected areas can allow
maintenance of representative samples of natural habitats and
biological diversity; they can, in watershed areas for example,
promote environmental stability in adjacent regions; they can
allow opportunities for rural development, scientific research
and monitoring, conservation education, and for recreation and
tourism. The nature and effectiveness of protected area systems
vary considerably from one country to another, depending on needs
and priorities, and on differences in legislative, institutional
and financial support. There are 111 very large protected areas
in the world (individual area is greater than 2,000,000 ha). A
significant number of these are at high latitudes, particularly
in northern boreal and Arctic regions of relatively low species
diversity, and are evidently of greater importance in wilderness
preservation than in the maintenance of global biological
diversity. However, a gratifying number are situated in tropical
regions, including northern South America, which appears to have
highest known level of regional biological diversity in the world
(see Fig. 2). If these protected areas can be adequately managed
in the long-term they will undoubtedly play an extremely
important role in the maintenance of the global biodiversity
estate. Three important types of area have not been included in
the UN List. These are those managed for forestry, those managed
by or on behalf of indigenous peoples, and those in private
ownership.

Table 9 - includes estimates of the number in each country of the
following kinds of institution: natural history museums, insect
and spider museum collections, herbaria, zoos, aquaria, botanic
gardens, microorganism culture collections.

Systematics - the discovery, description and classification of
species - is a discipline with low public profile yet fundamental
to human understanding, use and management of biological
diversity. The correct identification of experimental material
is essential in order to allow results to be corroborated by
other researchers. Identification of pests and pathogens to
species or strain is essential before control measures can be
planned. Identification of discrete fishery stocks allows
management to be tuned appropriately. Information on the
phylogeny of species allows properties known to exist in one
species to be sought after in related species, or permits related
species to be investigated for hitherto unknown but possibly
useful properties. Systematics collections, eg. preserved plant
or animal material, living collections of fishes, trees, or
microorganisms, perform several functions. They are a material
record of human inventory and understanding of biodiversity;
museum specimens are essential if known species are to be
classified and new species recognised as new; collections provide
material or research guidance for all kinds of applied biology,
including medical science and biotechnology; and they serve to
raise public awareness of and interest in the living world.
Because of their fundamental importance, systematics collections
support a wide variety of pure and applied studies and also serve
as foci of public interest and concern. Countries most rich in
biodiversity are relatively poor in systematics collections; with
the exception of USA, all countries with a large number of
systematics collections are not rich in biodiversity. Correcting
this degree of imbalance, or at least the implied differential
availability of expertise, will be necessary if the goals of the
Convention on Biodiversity are to be met at a satisfactory level.

LANGUAGE:
English

STATISTICAL INFORMATION:

ACCESS AND DISTRIBUTION:

WCMC makes information available through published media, through
provision of datasets, and through the provision of either standard or
customised reports. WCMC is committed to the principle of the free
exchange of data with other institutions and users. In so far as is
practical, it places its data in the public domain and encourages
their wide distribution. However, costs may be incurred in accessing
and distributing datasets, and where analysis and assessment provide
an added-value service. Such costs are passed on to the user.

CONTENTS:

Table 1. Country species diversity
Table 2. Threatened species
Table 3. National Red Data Books
Table 4. Major food crops
Table 5. Domestic livestock
Table 6. Marine resources
Table 7. Forests in the tropics
Table 8. National protected areas
Table 9. Systematics collections

Map 1. States Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity
Map 2. Countries with highest species diversity
Map 3. Countries with national Red Data Books
Map 4. World distribution of coral reefs
Map 5. States Party to the UN Convention on the Law of the
Sea
Map 6. World distribution of forests in the tropics
Map 7. World distribution of protected areas larger than 2
million ha
Map 8. Countries with most systematics collections in
relation to national biodiversity

Related URL
Link: VIEW RELATED INFORMATION
Description: Information and access to biodiversity series publications


Geographic Coverage
 N: 90.0 S: -90.0  E: 180.0  W: -180.0

Data Set Citation
Dataset Originator/Creator: UNEP/WCMC
Dataset Title: Biodiversity Data Sourcebook
Dataset Series Name: UNEP-WCMC Biodiversity Series
Dataset Release Date: November 1994
Dataset Release Place: Cambridge, UK
Dataset Publisher: WCMC
Issue Identification: ISBN 1899628002
Online Resource: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/index.html?http://www.unep-wcmc.org/resour...


Location Keywords
GEOGRAPHIC REGION > ARCTIC
GEOGRAPHIC REGION > GLOBAL
GEOGRAPHIC REGION > POLAR


Science Keywords
AGRICULTURE >AGRICULTURAL AQUATIC SCIENCES >FISHERIES    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >AGRICULTURAL PLANT SCIENCE >CROP/PLANT YIELDS    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >AGRICULTURAL PLANT SCIENCE >CROPPING SYSTEMS    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >ANIMAL SCIENCE >ANIMAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >ANIMAL SCIENCE >ANIMAL YIELDS    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >FOREST SCIENCE >FOREST MANAGEMENT    [Definition]
AGRICULTURE >FOREST SCIENCE >FOREST YIELDS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS >FORESTS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >VEGETATION >FOREST COMPOSITION/VEGETATION STRUCTURE    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >VEGETATION >PLANT CHARACTERISTICS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >VEGETATION >VEGETATION COVER    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >VEGETATION >VEGETATION SPECIES    [Definition]
HUMAN DIMENSIONS >HABITAT CONVERSION/FRAGMENTATION >DEFORESTATION >GLOBAL DEFORESTATION    [Definition]
HUMAN DIMENSIONS >HABITAT CONVERSION/FRAGMENTATION >REFORESTATION/REVEGETATION >GLOBAL REFORESTATION    [Definition]
LAND SURFACE >LAND USE/LAND COVER >LAND COVER    [Definition]
LAND SURFACE >LAND USE/LAND COVER >LAND PRODUCTIVITY    [Definition]
LAND SURFACE >LAND USE/LAND COVER >LAND RESOURCES    [Definition]
OCEANS >COASTAL PROCESSES >CORAL REEFS    [Definition]
OCEANS >COASTAL PROCESSES >MANGROVES    [Definition]
OCEANS >COASTAL PROCESSES >SHORELINES    [Definition]
OCEANS >AQUATIC SCIENCES >FISHERIES    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/VERTEBRATES    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/VERTEBRATES >AMPHIBIANS    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/VERTEBRATES >FISH    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/INVERTEBRATES    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/INVERTEBRATES >ARTHROPODS >CHELICERATES >ARACHNIDS    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/INVERTEBRATES >ARTHROPODS >HEXAPODS >INSECTS    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/INVERTEBRATES >ARTHROPODS    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >ANIMALS/INVERTEBRATES >CNIDARIANS >CORALS    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >PLANTS    [Definition]
BIOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION >PLANTS >ANGIOSPERMS (FLOWERING PLANTS) >MONOCOTS >SEAGRASS
BIOSPHERE >AQUATIC ECOSYSTEMS >MARINE HABITAT    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >SPECIES/POPULATION INTERACTIONS >ENDANGERED SPECIES    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >SPECIES/POPULATION INTERACTIONS >INDIGENOUS/NATIVE SPECIES    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >COMMUNITY DYNAMICS >BIODIVERSITY FUNCTIONS    [Definition]
BIOSPHERE >ECOLOGICAL DYNAMICS >ECOTOXICOLOGY >BIOAVAILABILITY    [Definition]


ISO Topic Category
FARMING
BIOTA


Project
GTOS >Global Terrestrial Observing System    [Information]
WCMC >World Conservation Monitoring Centre's Marine and Coastal Programme    [Information]


Keywords
AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES
BIODIVERSITY
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
DEFORESTATION
FOOD CROPS
FORESTS
GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY
IDN_NODE GSFC/WCMC
MARINE BIODIVERSITY
MARINE RESOURCES
PLANTS
PROTECTED AREAS
SPECIES DIVERSITY
SYSTEMATICS COLLECTIONS
THREATENED SPECIES
TROPICAL FORESTS
WCMC
CONSERVATION
TEMS
GTOS
G3OS


Data Set Progress
COMPLETE


Originating Center
WCMC


Data Center
World Conservation Monitoring Centre, United Nations Environment Programme    [Information]
Data Center URL: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/

Data Center Personnel
Name: JO TAYLOR
Phone: +44-1223-277314
Fax: +44-1223-277136
Email: info at wcmc.org.uk
Contact Address:
219c Huntingdon Road
CB3 0DL
City: Cambridge
Postal Code: CB3 0DL
Country: UNITED KINGDOM



Distribution
Distribution_Media: book, online
Distribution_Format: MS Word document
Fees: GBP 10 pounds; online: free


Personnel
BRIAN GROOMBRIDGE
Role: TECHNICAL CONTACT
Phone: +44-1223-277314
Fax: +44-1223-277136
Contact Address:
219c Huntingdon Road
City: Cambridge
Postal Code: CB3 0DL
Country: United Kingdom



Creation and Review Dates
Last DIF Revision Date: 2009-04-20

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