A major international conference opens in the former West German capital of Bonn on Monday to discuss measures against the ongoing destruction of nature, the dpa reported.
Some 5,000 delegates from 190 countries are taking part in the ninth conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that runs until May 30.
Scientists and environmental groups have called for urgent action to stem the loss of the plant and wildlife which underpins the health of our planet and has a direct impact on people's lives.
Data compiled by the Zoological Society of London shows between a quarter and one-third of the world's wildlife has been lost since 1970 as a result of pollution, over-fishing and urban expansion.
The destruction of rain forests, marine eco-systems and other forms of nature costs the global economy 6 per cent of its annual gross national product, or 3,000 billion dollars, according to a new study for the European Union.
The Bonn gathering aims to "reduce significantly" the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010, a target set at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the Sustainable Development Summit in Johannesburg a decade later.
The agenda includes the destruction of indigenous forests and the plundering of the sea as well as tapping traditional knowledge on medicines, promoting biodiversity in the world's poorest cities and the impact of biofuels on agriculture.
Another goal is to create equitable benefit sharing from the use made by the pharmaceutical industry of genetic resources in plants and animals.
German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned the discussions would be complex and said flexibility was needed to avoid a failure.
"The conference is at a crossroads," the minister told a news conference in Berlin last week. "In essence it is about the survival of mankind."
Gabriel said efforts to save threatened species from extinction was one of the most important global political issues along with measures to combat climate change. The CBD meeting is the last major gathering before the 2010 target date. Its central aim is to draft a document similar to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change to take over after 2010.
The organizers are keen to secure binding commitment to clearly laid down targets, along the lines of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the successor agreement which began to take shape at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali in December.