Fellow of the Royal Institute, Academy of Science
Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok
Thailand is a relatively small country, but she is rich in biodiversity, comprising approximately 6 -10% of the total species known thus far. In the past, 70% of the total land area was covered with various kinds of tropical forests
providing terrestrial and aquatic habitats for life forms in complex ecosystems. This natural biology that surrounded the local community has influenced the development of folklore, cultural diversity and traditional knowledge. Such local wisdom has been perpetuated by being passed down from generation to generation. The Thai people lived peacefully and sustainably, surrounded by the balanced and green environment, for many centuries until the 1960s, when the Thai government launched the first National Economic and Social Development Plan. Such modernization in industry and agriculture accompanying globalization trends in capitalism and unsustainable development led to deforestation and environmental problems, including climate change and global warming. As a consequence, there has been a tremendous loss of biodiversity and ecosystems. Many species have become endangered and some are at critical population levels and prone to extinction if action is not taken to save them. Such loss of biodiversity is likely to have tremendous effects—often unpredictable—on the productive lives of all living things including ourselves. A basic knowledge of these living things is needed in order to facilitate conservation and management and to better understand how to use biological resources in a sustainable manner. Therefore, the Special Program for Biodiversity Research and Training (BRT) was established in November, 1995, under the joint sponsorship of TRF and BIOTEC, to support basic research in tropical biology as well as studies on policy development and management of biodiversity in Thailand.
Key words: biodiversity, culture, traditional knowledge, conservation, natural capital, sustainable development.