John Wilson; Richard Primack

Published On


Page Range

pp. 431-464

Print Length

33 pages

12. Biodiversity and the Law

Environmental laws and regulations are implemented at three different levels: international treaties, national laws, and local laws. Each of these levels is intricately connected: international treaties influence —but also depend on—national laws to succeed, while national laws are guided by local needs and customary laws that have been in place for generations. International treaties and conventions provide frameworks for countries to cooperate on protecting species, ecosystems, and other levels of biodiversity. They are important because: (1) many species migrate and disperse across borders, (2) ecosystems do not follow administrative boundaries, (3) pollution spreads by air and water across regions and around the globe, (4) many biological products are traded internationally, and (5) some environmental problems require global cooperation and coordination. Furthermore, national governments protect biodiversity by regulating natural resource use and preventing pollution. Subsidies and tax incentives can also be used to reward citizens and businesses that engage in environmentally-responsible behaviours. That said, there is a constant need to evaluate environmental laws and regulations to ensure that they are enforced, violators are prosecuted, and new laws and amendments are passed as and when needed. Law enforcement agencies and scientists are constantly looking for new ways to address enforcement shortcomings. When banning environmentally detrimental activities that are not compatible with conservation goals, it is critical to help the affected people to transition toward sustainable activities. Failing that, conservation activities may unintentionally force those people to resort to illegal activities such as poaching out of desperation to obtain food and income.