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News article2 May 2019

Developing countries lead by example in mainstreaming biodiversity

Namibia comes out top for its national plans for mainstreaming diversity.
© Flickr, by JRC scientist Gregoire Dubois

A recent Biological Conservation article that reviews 144 national biodiversity plans finds that developing countries, particularly those in Africa, score highest in mainstreaming biodiversity, and that developed countries need to do more to acknowledge the value of biodiversity to their production sectors.

Biodiversity is hugely important to life on Earth. Its ecosystem services provide food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

However, humanity’s transformation of most of the planet's surface to meet its immediate needs has led to rapid global climate change and habitat degradation, triggering a loss of biodiversity to the extent that we are now facing the sixth mass extinction of species on Earth. This threatens the living planet system and the services on which humanity depends.

Mainstreaming biodiversity

Given that the main direct pressures on biodiversity come from economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - an international treaty that aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity - calls for the integration of biodiversity into economic sectors. This integration process, which is essential to halt current biodiversity loss, is referred to as mainstreaming biodiversity.

Most Parties to the CBD have developed their own National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), which are the main instrument for implementing the goals of the CBD at the national level.

The authors of the Biological Conservation article reviewed 144 NBSAPs against five criteria, and calculated a national-level indicator to compare levels of biodiversity mainstreaming among countries.


The five criteria by which they ranked each NBSAP considered

  1. The actors involved in developing the NBSAP (public, private, civil society, other),
  2. References to the contribution of biodiversity to the national economy,

and, for the main sectors that threaten biodiversity (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, water supply, other extractive industries, other), whether the NBSAP makes reference to:

  1. The threats posed by biodiversity loss to sector outcomes
  2. How biodiversity conservation can improve sector outcomes
  3. How biodiversity conservation threatens sector outcomes
Mainstreaming biodiversity scores for 144 countries. Darker tones (red: developed nations; blue: developing nations) indicate higher scores.

The final scores ranged from 0.42 (Germany) to 4.5 (Namibia), with an overall average of 2.45. As a region, Africa came out on top with an overall score of 2.76, followed by the Americas (2.66, not including the USA, which is not signed up to the CBD), Asia (2.36), Europe (2.15) and Oceania (1.88).

The high scores attained by developing countries, particularly those in Africa, indicate that they have a greater awareness of the importance of biodiversity mainstreaming. They were also more likely to involve a greater range of stakeholders in the NBSAP development process.

On the other hand, developed nations showed considerably less involvement of groups outside government, and were less likely to specify the monetary contributions of biodiversity to their economies.


As NBSAPs provide a non-binding declaration of intent, the authors could not assess the actual implementation of mainstreaming initiatives. Nevertheless, they found that that the foundations for mainstreaming biodiversity are being laid in the NBSAPs of many countries, and highlight that developed nations need to do more to acknowledge the value of biodiversity to their production sectors.

In order to achieve mainstreaming on a global scale, more biodiversity concerns need to be included within the management plans of economic sectors in all countries.

According to Alexandra Marques, the JRC scientist involved in this study, "if countries properly mainstream biodiversity they can create new opportunities for conservation that will support future well-being."

Further information

Related Content

Mainstreaming biodiversity: A review of national strategies

Convention on Biological Diversity


Publication date
2 May 2019