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General information: Protection of Species

Protection of species: What is it about?

Biological diversity on our planet is estimated to comprise 10 to 20 million species. However, this figure is decreasing dramatically: worldwide the annual rate of extinction is about 1000 times higher than it would be under normal circumstances. 35 percent of Germany's native animal species are endangered, for plant species the figure is 26 percent. Protection of species means conserving animal and plant species and stopping the loss of biological diversity. And it is not only plants and animals that must be protected; their habitats are in need of protection, too. All this requires firm measures at international, national, regional and local level - and above all, conservation-oriented behaviour of each individual citizen.

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The rate of biodiversity loss was to be substantially reduced at global, regional and national level by 2010. This 2010 biodiversity target was adopted by heads of state and government at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. The "3rd Global Biodiversity Outlook" report, a UN report of Mai 2010, concludes that the target has not yet been reached. Biological diversity is still declining dramatically. It is the position of the German government that the current trend must at least be slowed down, or even reversed.

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Government policy

Both at national and international level the German government makes every effort to stop the loss of habitats and species.

National Strategy on Biological Diversity

The core of the government's nature conservation policy is a National Strategy on Biological Diversity (Nationale Strategie zur biologischen Vielfalt (in German only)). This strategy is geared towards implementing the 2002 UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Germany and defines about 330 nature conservation goals that are to be reached by 2020.

Biodiversity in the focus of the new Federal Nature Conservation Act

With its new Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) of March 2010 the German government makes conservation of biological diversity a top issue of nature conservation legislation. This Act lays down for the first time nationwide regulations on the conservation of wild animal and plant species and regulations aiming at monitoring, preventing the spread of and eliminating of invasive species.

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International species protection policy

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

One of the most effective international instruments to fight the loss of species is CITES, the the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (www.cites.org). The Convention regulates and limits trade in endangered animal and plant species. In the Federal Republic of Germany the Convention has been force since 1976. The appendices to the Convention are lists of species afforded different levels or types of protection. Different trade restrictions apply to species under the different appendices ranging from trade with permits or certificates to almost complete trade prohibition.

EC Council Regulation on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora

In the European Union the EC Council Regulation on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora and the respective implementing provision ensure uniform implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. These legal instruments regulate both the import and export of specimens into and from the European Community, and trade within the Community. The EC Council Regulation on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora contains importing requirements which go beyond those of CITES.

Habitats Directive and Birds Directive

Together with the Council Directive on the conservation of wild birds (Vogelschutz-Richtlinie (German)), the Council Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Flora-Fauna-Habitat-Richtlinie (German)) constitutes the European Union's central nature conservation legislation platform. Areas protected under both directives make up Natura 2000, an EU-wide network of conservation areas geared towards conserving habitats and species endangered in the EU.

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Consumer information

Species protection in daily life

Species protection is an everyday issue. What and how much we consume has an impact on animal and plant species and their habitats: sustainability labels such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label for timber products or the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) label for fisheries ensure that products come from sustainable forestry or fisheries and were produced without chemistry or genetic engineering. Using low quantities of detergents for cleaning, being economical with washing detergent and not using fabric softener helps conserve water habitats. Buying products without no or very little packaging helps save natural resources such as wood. Leaving the car at home more often and saving energy also contributes to species protection. Climate protection is species protection, too, since climate change will constitute one of the major obstacles for species survival in the future.

Species protection and travel

Exotic souvenirs, often made of protected animal or plant material, are items encountered on travels. Buying them means contributing to the loss of species, even if this done involuntarily. Care should also be taken when collecting shell, snail or plants species for they may be protected. The disappearance of each and every species is a step towards the collapse of ecosystems – and this is a threat not only for plants and animals but also for humans.

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Last update: 23.08.2010