Biodiversity, a derivative of the phrase ‘biological
diversity’ refers to the variety of life encompassing
genetic, species and ecosystem diversity. This term is
largely equated with the protection of the natural
environment and conservation of the biological gene
pool. Biodiversity supports various natural ecosystems
that benefit humankind. Direct benefits include climate
control, water purification, disease control, biological
pest control, pollination and erosion control. Indirect
benefits centre on spiritual and aesthetic pursuits.
Economically, the reservoir of genetic traits represents a tangible benefit to
agriculture. For example, cross-breeding of valuable crops has resulted in more
resistant strains and improved yields. Investigation of biodiversity may even
identify new species as future food sources. Scientific evidence in the last
100 years has also reinforced the traditional belief that biodiversity inspires
human health. Plants, insects, microbes and even small animals have been used
in some form or other as dietary supplements. Chemicals from plants have
provided the core of many medicines. Thus, research in biodiversity necessarily
includes an element of food and health security. Industrial materials harvested
from biodiversity include fibre, rubber, oil and dyes. Research in sustainable
utilization of materials from organisms is fundamental to ‘new economies’ that
emphasise sustainable development and green technology. Therefore, the loss of
biodiversity must be viewed with grave concern as it provides security of
resources for population growth and economic activity.
Malaysia is well positioned in biodiversity research. We are identified as one
of the 12 most biologically diverse nations. The Government policy supports key
areas in natural resources within the Malaysia Plan and also in the National
Biotechnology Policy. Therefore, the establishment of a Biodiversity Research
Centre in UTAR is appropriate within the context of research in Malaysia. This
centre will hopefully complement institutions of higher education both locally
and abroad and serve as a catalyst for education, training and commerce thus
contributing to UTAR’s goals of inculcating a culture of scholastic research
through major research programmes and cooperative efforts with partners.
The establishment of a leading centre of excellence for
research, development and commercialisation of natural resources.
To promote multi-disciplinary research, product development
and training of personnel in priority areas to drive local industries towards
sustainable utilization of natural resources.