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Identification and gap analysis of key biodiversity areas: targets for comprehensive protected area systems

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The planet’s biodiversity is remarkable. No fewer than 1.5 million species have been named and described; at least three times this and possibly many more await discovery (Novotny et al. 2002). This biodiversity provides incalculable benefit to humanity. Most directly it comprises a vast genetic storehouse of medicines foods and fibers (Myers 1983). Strong evidence suggests that biodiversity endows stability to ecosystems (Naeem and Li 1997) sheltering humanity from disease and natural disasters. Moreover these ecosystems yield services of substantial economic value (Costanza et al. 1997) althoughmost of these remain significantly undervalued. Least tangibly but no less importantly all of the world’s societies and cultures value species for their own sake over and above any utilitarian purpose (Wilson 1984).

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