The process of evolution means that the pool of living diversity is dynamic: it increases when new genetic variation is produced, a new species is created or a novel ecosystem formed; it decreases when the genetic variation within a species decreases, a species becomes extinct or an ecosystem complex is lost. The concept emphasises the interrelated nature of the living world and its processes.
Biological diversity is essential to maintain life on earth and has important social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values. In addition to its intrinsic value biodiversity determines our resilience to changing circumstances. Without adequate biodiversity, events such as climate change and pest infestations are more likely to have catastrophic effects. It is essential for maintaining the long term viability of agriculture and fisheries for food production. Biodiversity constitutes the basis for the development of many industrial processes and the production of new medicines. Biodiversity often provides solutions to existing problems of pollution and disease.
A life support system is any natural or human-engineered system that furthers the life of the biosphere in a sustainable fashion. The fundamental attribute of life support systems is that together they provide all of the sustainable needs required for continuance of life. These needs go far beyond biological requirements. Thus, life support systems encompass natural environmental systems as well as ancillary social systems required to foster societal harmony, safety, nutrition, medical care, economic standards, and the development of new technology. The one common thread in all of these systems is that they operate in partnership with the conservation of global natural resources.
The global scale of biodiversity reduction or losses and the interdependence of different species and eco-systems across national borders demands concerted international action. The framework for this action is the [Convention on Biological Diversity].
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.
The [Convention on Biological Diversity] recommends the following actions in relation to research and training for the conservation of biodiversity: (a) Establish and maintain programmes for scientific and technical education and training in measures for the identification, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and its components and provide support for such education and training for the specific needs of developing countries; (b) Promote and encourage research which contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, particularly in developing countries; and (c) Promote and cooperate in the use of scientific advances in biological diversity research in developing methods for conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.
In China since the 1950s, surveys on flora and fauna and other living natural resources and collections of cultivated plants, livestock and poultry have been carried out. A Specimen Museum for Plants and Animals, the largest one in Asia, has been established. In the 1980s, surveys of rare and endangered plant and animal species were conducted. Through surveys, plant and animal species have been classified and their distributions shown, producing an assessment of the health of the various ecosystems and resulting in the discovery of a number of new species.