Future resources

Nobody knows the precise number of living species. To date, scientists have counted and described 1.7 million living organisms, but the planet's total number is estimated to be between 5 and 30 million. As knowledge improves, new bio-resources to increase human welfare will be discovered and developed. There is a clear relationship between the conservation of biological diversity and the discovery of new biological resources. The relatively few developed plant species currently cultivated have encouraged a large amount of research and selective breeding. Many presently under-utilised food crops have the potential to become important in the future. The documentation of indigenous people's use of plants is often the source of ideas for developing plant species to increase wider distribution and economic benefits. There are a large number of as yet undiscovered plant species, which could prove beneficial (Iltis, 1988).

Products that potentially maybe be derived from biological resources include sunscreens from corals, light and high tensile fibres from spider silk, and instant adhesives from velvet worms or barnacles (Beattie, 1991). Micro organisms are important in the production of extensive ranges of agrochemicals, protein for animal feed, enzymes and biopolymers.

There is also potential for further development of biotic resources for natural pesticides similar to the insecticide microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis, and other useful products such as fats, and oils (Plotkin, 1988). The conservation of diversity is also essential for finding effective biological control organisms and for breeding disease resistant species. Genetic engineering of micro organisms promises further advances in the production of new compounds and processes (Reid et al., 1989).