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Germany: species extinction is a global economic threat

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Germany: species extinction is a global economic threat
The Indian gharial remains on an endangered list. Photo: DPA
12:28 CEST+02:00
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday the loss of biodiversity poses a massive economic threat much like climate change, less than two weeks before the ninth UN Conference on Biological Diversity begins in Bonn.

Speaking before Germany's parliament, Gabriel said "effective measures" must emerge from the Bonn conference in order to reverse a trend of diminishing world biodiversity. Work on international guidelines for managing genetic resources in a fair way should be completed by 2010, Gabriel said.

The Social Democratic minister emphasized the interests of developing countries, saying that countries "must balance economic interests" as they seek to protect species.

"We hope to make significant progress in this area," Gabriel said, adding that Europe has already been a leading supporter of sustainable development.

Some 5,000 delegates to the biodiversity conference will meet in Bonn, Germany's former capital, starting May 19.

According to a government report issued in November, about 27 percent of Germany's roughly 3,000 species of ferns and flowering plants and 36 percent of its native animal species are threatened.

"Germany's rates of endangerment are among the highest in Europe," the report found.

A World Wildlife Fund report issued on Wednesday found that Germany is leaving its threatened plant and animal species homeless despite having a large amount of acreage protected on paper.

"If Chancellor Merkel wants to be seen as the biodiversity chancellor and as a good example at the upcoming UN summit, Germany needs to finally do its homework," WWF species protection expert Frank Barsch said in a statement.

Despite protection efforts the percentage of threatened habitats in Germany rose from 68.7 percent in 1994 to 72.5 percent in 2006, according to the report, titled Nature Conservation in Germany. Half of all biological habitats in Germany could disappear over the long term, the report found.

Despite having more than 7,000 landscape conservation areas and about 100 large nature parks, only about a half-percent of the country's landscape is protected at the highest level, the report found.

"Nature conservation in Germany is still like a cheap patchwork quilt. Most of the protected areas are too small, too isolated and in too poor of condition. The promised turnaround is not in sight," Barsch said.

with ddp

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