2010 The Year Dedicated to Biodiversity

We are Seeing Alarming Rates of Increased Biodiversity Loss Instead of the Promised Gain

The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. Making this declaration would give the opportunity to inform and teach the general public of the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth. Declaring 2010 as a year dedicated to biodiversity was also a way to show how, the commitments made by world leaders at the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity would improve and potentially halt the rates of biodiversity loss. However a paper published in the leading journal Science, on April 29th,  show world leaders have failed to deliver on the commitments made in 2002 and have instead we are now seeing alarming increased rates of declining biodiversity.

"Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002: biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems", said Dr Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International, and the paper's lead author.

Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend.

This diversity is often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms. So far, about 1.75 million species have been identified, mostly small creatures such as insects. Scientists reckon that there are actually about 13 million species, though estimates range from three to 100 million.

It is the combination of life forms and their interactions with each other and with the rest of the environment that has made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity provides a large number of goods and services that sustain our lives.

"Our data show that 2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet."  Dr. Stuart adds.

"Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%," said the United Nations Environment Program's Chief Scientist Prof Joseph Alcamo. "These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development, as recognized by the UN Millennium Development Goals."

Compiling over 30 indicators -- measures of different aspects of biodiversity, including changes in species' populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition -- the study found no evidence for a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity, and that the pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase.

The indicators included in the study were developed and synthesized through the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, a collaboration of over 40 international organizations and agencies developing global biodiversity indicators and the leading source of information on trends in global biodiversity.
Among the drivers of threats to biodiversity are human demands for food, water, energy and materials, according to Galli. Such threats include climate change, pollution, habitat loss, as well as over-exploitation of resources and species.

"A better understanding of the connections between the Ecological Footprint and biodiversity loss is fundamental to slowing, halting and reversing the ongoing declines in these ecosystems and in populations of wild species," said Dr. Alessandro Galli, senior scientist for Global Footprint Network and co-author of the study.

To learn more about what you can do to help improve biodiversity in your area take a look through the Green Living Website for ways to reduce your impact on the environment around you.