Encouraging on-site conservation of biodiversity

Conserving biological diversity under in-situ conditions

Establishing, expanding and managing, as appropriate to each national context, protected area systems, which includes systems of conservation units for their environmental, social and spiritual functions and values, including conservation of forests in representative ecological systems and landscapes, primary old-growth forests, conservation and management of wildlife, nomination of World Heritage Sites under the World Heritage Convention, as appropriate, conservation of genetic resources, involving in-situ and ex-situ measures and undertaking supportive measures to ensure sustainable utilization of biological resources and conservation of biological diversity and the traditional forest habitats of indigenous people, forest dwellers and local communities.

In-situ conservation of local species, varieties and domestic animal breeds requires an adequate system of economic and social incentives, combined with increased consumers awareness.

Biological diversity is best conserved in the wild ([in-situ]), through the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and natural habitats, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings.

In-situ conservation means the conservation of biodiversity in the wild through the conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings.


According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in-situ conditions means conditions where genetic resources exist within ecosystems and natural habitats, and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. There are synergy effects between conservation of genetic resources, nature protection and agricultural and forest production as well as the public significance of in-situ conservation.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends taking action where necessary for the conservation of biological diversity through in-situ conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats, as well as primitive cultivars and their wild relatives, and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings, while implementing ex-situ measures, preferably in the source country. In-situ measures should include reinforcement of terrestrial, marine and aquatic protected area systems to embrace, inter alia, vulnerable freshwater and other wetlands, and coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries, coral reefs and mangroves.


The Convention on Biological Diversity recommends the following actions for in-situ conservation of biological diversity: (a) Establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity; (b) Develop, where necessary, guidelines for the selection, establishment and management of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity; (c) Regulate or manage biological resources important for the conservation of biological diversity whether within or outside protected areas, with a view to ensuring their conservation and sustainable use; (d) Promote the protection of ecosystems, natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations of species in natural surroundings; (e) Promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas with a view to furthering protection of these areas; (f) Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, inter alia, through the development and implementation of plans or other management strategies; (g) Establish or maintain means to regulate, manage or control the risks associated with the use and release of living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology which are likely to have adverse environmental impacts that could affect the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account the risks to human health; (h) Prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species; (i) Endeavour to provide the conditions needed for compatibility between present uses and the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components; (j) Subject to its national legislation, respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices; (k) Develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations; (l) Where a significant adverse effect on biological diversity has been determined (pursuant to Article 7 of the Convention), regulate or manage the relevant processes and categories of activities; and (m) Cooperate in providing financial and other support for [in-situ] conservation, particularly to developing countries.

Many traditional agroecosystems are still found throughout developing countries constitute major in-situ repositories of both crop and wild plant germplasm. These plant resources are directly dependent upon management by human groups; thus, they have evolved in part under the influence of farming practices shaped by particular cultures. Because genetic conservation programmes are more effective when preserving the ecosystems in which the resources occur, maintenance of traditional farming systems and adjacent natural ecosystems is proposed as a sensible strategy of in-situ preservation of crop and wild plant genetic resources. Preservation efforts should be linked to rural development projects that take into account the ethnobotanical knowledge of rural people and that emphasize both food self-sufficiency as well as local resource conservation. Preservation of these traditional agroecosystems cannot be achieved when isolated from maintenance of the culture of the local people. Therefore, projects should also emphasize maintenance of cultural diversity.

Case studies of potato agriculture in Peru, maize agriculture in Mexico, and rice agriculture in Thailand indicate that farmers frequently engage in de facto conservation of landraces. Five principles emerge from these studies to guide planning of in-situ conservation: complementarity with off-site conservation, minimal institutional development, continuity with existing programmes, meeting the development goals of increasing income and food, and accepting germplasm as an international public good. Four means to implement on-site conservation are: the institutional framework; the information base; the policy framework; and the role of grassroots organizations.


A worldwide system of crop germplasm conservation has been developed around ex-situ preservation. This system is based on a dual mandate of conservation and development, and it has largely ignored the farming systems that produce germplasm. Problems of the current strategy include incomplete collections, loss within these collections, isolation from evolutionary processes, and budgetary constraints. In-situ conservation offers an alternative to current methods especially if conservation rather than development is the priority.


Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 15: Life on Land