CONSERVING BOTANICAL David Given2DIVERSITY ON AGLOBAL SCALE'ABSTRACT As the world moves toward the twenty-first century, it seems ill prepared to cope with increasing social, economic,and demographic problems. It is not surprising that loss of biodiversity is not perceived as a problem by many people.Current depletion rates are reaching serious proportions. Attention is particularly focused on losses to moist tropicalforests and the need to monitor this at a variety of levels: area and quality of habitat, species extinction, and loss ofgenetic variability. However, conservation of tropical forest must not be at the expense of other habitats and ecosystems.Alarming losses are occurring in many other systems, such as wetlands and Mediterranean shrublands. The plantsof even such recently pristine regions as the Antarctic are under pressure from human influences. Future scenariosare not easy to construct as there are many uncertainties. Major deleterious factors could be: global climatic changes,especially through the greenhouse effect and alteration in the ozone layer around the earth; soil depletion, geneticloss, and climatic changes resulting from tropical forest loss; increase in the human population; economic instabilityand imbalances in distribution of wealth; and decreased resources for research and biological conservation. In viewof this, there is need to question whether conventional strategies chiefly involving protected natural areas, botanicgardens, and gene banks can cope with future needs. Focal points for short-term and long-term action are suggested.There is need to understand with greater precision the processes of extinction and to elaborate and test extinctionmodels. Management of modified landscapes is likely to achieve greater prominence in the future but needs to bebased on sound biological theory. Conservation managers and biologists will need to be innovative and bold, perhapsmaking decisions that may be unpopular with some supporters of conservation but may be necessary for the long-term well-being of the biosphere. An increased level of cooperation is necessary; currently this is hampered in somecountries by a "free market" philosophy of competitive funding. Adequate resources for conservation are essential,and this means establishing a better case for research and management funding, clearer definition of objectives, andgreater accountability by scientists. Perhaps, above ail, a new ethic is long overdue, marked by a return to the conceptof global and regional commons with recognition of interdependence rather than independence. There is danger inthe view that "everyone is a conservationist at heart" unless there is clear understanding of what this means inpractical terms to each individual. Perhaps the greatest danger facing conservation is loss of biodiversity by slowattrition. Awareness of the value and wonder of diversity is probably the best safeguard against this, which meansthat conservation research and management must not only be directed for the good of plants and animais, but mustbe communicated to people living alongside them. If we sell you our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it ... and with ail your strength, with ail your mind, with ail your heart, preserve it for your children-Chief Seattle, 1854. Recently, I telephoned the head of science at alocal high school. During the conversation I askedwhy there is so little conservation in the seniorscience syllabus. He thought and answered, "Well,conservation of plants and animals was an issue inthe 1970s, but it isn't really an issue now!" Oneof the questions that we need to address is exactlythis: Is biological conservation an important issuetoday? If the answer is negative, then we are prob-ably wasting our time being here today! NormanMyers (1979, p. 3) succinctly expressed the viewof many people: Ask a man in the street what he thinks of the problem of disappearing species, and he may well reply that it would be a pity if the tiger or the blue whale disappeared. But he may well add that it would be no big deal, not as compared with crises of energy, population, food and pollution-the 'real' problems. In other words, he cares about disappearing species, but he cares about many other issues more: he simply SI am grateful to the staff of the Missouri Botanical Garden, especially Peter Raven and Gerrit Davidse, for theopportunity to present this paper and to Warwick Harris, Director of Botany Division, DSIR, for his support. Numerouscolleagues commented on sections of the manuscript and Colin Webb, Murray Parsons, and Colin Meurk providedperceptive discussion on the whole text. Discussions and correspondence worldwide, in the course of my work forIUCN and WWF International, have contributed to the ideas expressed here. Consequently, I dedicate this paper tothe many dedicated conservationists whose tireless but often unacknowledged efforts are devoted to making this abetter world for future generations. 2 Botany Division, DSIR, Christchurch, New Zealand.ANN. MISSOURI BOT. GARD. 77: 48-62. 1990.