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POTSDAM, Germany (AFP) - Environment ministers from 13 major nations agreed here on Friday to seek the economic value of biodiversity to help preserve Earth's depleted storeroom of life.

The meeting at the Cecilienhof chateau, where the 1945 Potsdam agreement that reshaped Europe was hammered out, gathered together the Group of Eight industrialized countries and the big five of the developing world -- Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.

Inspired by last year's Stern Report, a shock report on the economic cost of climate change, the 13 ministers called for a similar study on the value of biodiversity.

They also explored avenues for resolving the global warming crisis.

"In a global study, we will initiate the process of analysing the global economic benefit of biological diversity, the costs of the loss of biodiversity and the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation," the so-called Potsdam Initiative said.

The idea will be put to the G8 summit in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm from June 6-8 for its endorsement.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, chairing the two-day meeting, told reporters biodiversity "is not just an issue for birdwatchers."

It was treated as "a poor relation," granted only rare and fleeting attention by politicians or economists, he said.

As many as 150 species become extinct each day, or a thousand times faster than natural processes, yet there was lamentably little knowledge about what these species did and whether they could be of value, he said.
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