The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated each year on 22 May, a date in our Calendar dedicated to raising global awareness about the importance of protecting biological resources and the global biodiversity that shapes our environment — not only the various species of plants, animals and microorganisms around us, but also the genetic diversity of each of them, as well as the great variety of ecosystems that make up our planet.
What you’ll find out from this article:
- When biodiversity suffers, humanity too
- Climate change remains a major threat to biodiversity
- Test your knowledge
The disappearance of the International Day for Biological Diversity from our list of annual milestones would be major news, as international days of observance exist to give much needed visibility to problems that must be resolutely tackled. But when it comes to biodiversity, the data regarding its deterioration continues to get worse year-on-year and the need to take action to stop this grows increasingly urgent.
According to the UN, three-quarters of the Earth's land-based environment and about 66 % of the marine environment have been altered by human activity, and the latest report submitted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), states that more than one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.
Only once we realise that we are part of the solution will we be able to put a stop to the damage that we are causing to nature.
When biodiversity suffers, humanity too
Analyzing our relationship with nature, a reality emerges that we cannot ignore: despite all our technological progress, we depend entirely on healthy, varied ecosystems in order to dispose of water, food, medicines, clothing, fuel, refuge and energy. And that’s just a few examples of what it provides.
According to the UN, more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, whilst another 1.6 billion depend on forests. The conservation of all Earth's species no longer constitutes merely an altruistic dimension; it is vital to ensuring our very survival.
This year the theme of the International Day for Biological Diversity is “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”, emphasizing the action that needs to be undertaken on the ground to implement the plans agreed on paper to go beyond protecting nature and attempting to regenerate what we have lost.
This is the message launched by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in order to stand up for biodiversity. For this, the CBD makes available different documents and tools through its website which you can find here.
The holding of this day has a special consideration this year, since it was in early 2023 that over 100 countries signed the 30x30 Agreement at the last Biodiversity Summit (COP15), an historic accord that has the aim of protecting 30% of planet’s land and seas by 2030. Biodiversity needs ambitious plans like these to result in specific measures for nature.
Climate change remains a major threat to biodiversity
Yet, despite the fact that biodiversity is vital to human survival, it is us as humans who are responsible for its greatest threat—climate change.
There are several species that have already suffered irreversible consequences or are just about to do it:
- Three species disappear every hour
- From 100 to 150 species disappear every day
- From 15.000 to 80.000 species disappear every year
These figures, despite their large size, are no more than figures. But if we picture them on a familiar face, they can make us more aware of what we are losing:
- The polar bear population in Canada has decreased by 22% in the last thirty years as a result of climate change. The melting of the poles causes a decrease in food for hunting and an increase of the distances sometimes impossible to swim. Their malnutrition prevents them from spending the winter with guarantees of survival.
- Up to 74 species of cloud forest frogs have already disappeared due to the environmental dryness caused by global warming. These amphibians need specific humidity conditions for incubating their eggs and this conditions are no longer happening in many ecosystems.
- The Adelie penguin population in Antarctica decreased over the last twenty years from 320 pairs to 54 pairs. Why? The increase of 5,5 0C in that area over the last half century has forced the massive exodus of the krill, a kind of crustacean that represents their main food source, towards colder waters these penguins cannot easily reach.
- The flycatcher, a species of bird that lives in the Netherlands, has experienced a 90% population decrease in a few decades. Once again, the cause is a change of behaviour amongst his food supply caused by climate change. The young birds in this species are usually born when caterpillars hatch. With the gradual temperature raise, caterpillars began to anticipate their hatching a fortnight, so when flycatcher babies are born, their parents can’t find caterpillars to feed them.
This year, it is more important than ever that every one of us stands up and says, "We're part of the solution!"
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