Towards a Duty of Care for Biodiversity

Gillian Earl, Allan Curtis, Catherine Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
102 Downloads (Pure)


The decline in biodiversity is a worldwide phenomenon, with current rates of species extinction more dramatic than any previously recorded. Habitat loss has been identified as the major cause of biodiversity decline. In this article we suggest that a statutory duty of care would complement the current mix of policy options for biodiversity conservation. Obstacles hindering the introduction of a statutory duty of care include linguistic ambiguity about the terms 'duty of care' and 'stewardship' and how they are applied in a natural resource management context, and the absence of a mechanism to guide its implementation. Drawing on international literature and key informant interviews we have articulated characteristics of duty of care to reduce linguistic ambiguity, and developed a framework for implementing a duty of care for biodiversity at the regional scale. The framework draws on key elements of the common law 'duty of care', the concepts of 'taking reasonable care' and 'avoiding foreseeable harm', in its logic. Core elements of the framework include desired outcomes for biodiversity, supported by current recommended practices. The focus on outcomes provides opportunities for the development of innovative management practices. The framework incorporates multiple pathways for the redress of non-compliance including tiered negative sanctions, and positive measures to encourage compliance. Importantly, the framework addresses the need for change and adaptation that is a necessary part of biodiversity management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-696
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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