Shazia Riyaz Shah & Dr Bilal A Bhat
The most unique feature of the earth is the existence of life, and the most extraordinary feature of life is its biological diversity. The term “Biological Diversity” is used to designate the immense variety of life on earth. It denotes the variety of life within a species, an ecosystem or an area. More precisely, it refers to all living beings including plants, bacteria, animals and humans. Nowadays a new compound word ‘Biodiversity’ is used for the longer form of expression i.e. ‘Biological Diversity’. There exist over 8 million species of plants and animals on earth, according to an estimates made by biologists. However, only around 1.2 million species have been identified and described so far. Millions of other organisms remain a complete mystery. Biological diversity differs extensively across the globe, having places with high biodiversity, like rainforests and low biodiversity areas, as agricultural fields. Rich biological diversity is often regarded as a sign of a healthy ecosystem. However, much of the biodiversity on earth now is in jeopardy due to human exploitation that disturbs and even destroys ecosystems. Ecosystem, species, wild population, local population, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed.The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2019), estimated that about 82 per cent of wild mammal biomass has been lost, while 40 per cent of amphibians, almost a third of reef-building corals, more than a third of marine mammals, and 10 per cent of all insects are threatened with extinction. A new UN report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), warns the people across the globe about the rate of declination of natural resources, a summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, meeting held last week (29 April – 4 May) in Paris. According to this, “nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world”. The report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global. According to a famous American biologist and naturalist E. O. Wilson, “we should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity”.Many ecologists, biologists, and wildlife conservationists around the globe are researching why this alteration is happening at an alarming rate, the impacts of this change and the ways to conserve these important natural resources.
This loss is a direct result of human activity as 3 billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity, while over 1.6 billion people depend on forests products for their livelihoods. Biological diversity resources are the pillars upon which we build civilizations. Fish provide 20 per cent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Over 80 per cent of the human diet is provided by plants. 80 per cent of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant based medicines for basic healthcare. Just as the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report says, “climate change could have a negative and irreversible impact, if human actionsare not modified”. The future of biodiversity is highly threatened by climate change, but we can still do something. Ecosystem integrity underlines human health and development. While there is a growing recognition that biodiversity is a global asset of tremendous value to future generations, the number of species is being significantly reduced by certain human activities. Human-induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions that favor particular hosts, vectors, and pathogens. Loss of biodiversity threatens all, including our health. It has been proven that biodiversity loss could expand zoonoses – diseases transmitted from animals to humans- while, on the other hand, if we keep biodiversity intact, it offers excellent tools to fight against pandemics like those caused by corona viruses. To stop or reverse this deterioration it is vital to change people’s roles, actions and relations with biodiversity. Around the world, UNESCO has witnessed positive and inspiring seeds of revolution by various networks, programs and partners. UNESCO also escorts the Member States and their people in their exertions to halt the loss of biodiversity by accepting, appreciating, safeguarding and using biodiversity sustainably. The United Nations has designated 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and 2021 as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.Given the importance of public education and awareness about this issue, the UN decided to celebrate the International Day for Biological diversity annually. To increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, the United Nations has proclaimed May 22 every year as an international day for biodiversity. It is part of the United Nations programs for biodiversity conservation and creating awareness. This global occasion, which is held on the 22nd of May since year 2001, aims to promote and raise global awareness of issues related to the planet’s biodiversity.
This International Day is part of the year 2020 defined as a super year for biodiversity with major events planned (and for most postponed to a later date) such as the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity or the UN Biodiversity Forum. 2020 is a year of reflection, opportunity and solutions.
On May 22, 1992, the text of the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted by the United Nations at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Since 2001, the international day for Biological Diversity is celebrated each year on the anniversary of this date. There is a separate theme for Biological diversity day since 2002 each year, which emphasizes different aspects of biodiversity. The theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) on 22 May 2020 is “Our solutions are in nature”. As the global community is called to re-examine its relationship with the natural world, one thing is firm that despite all our technological advances we are completely reliant on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our health, water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy. This event is organized globally to increase the understanding and the importance of biodiversity in our future. Celebrations are organized by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which forms part of the United Nations Environmental Programme; many national governments; and a range of non-governmental organizations. The slogan “Our solutions are in nature” give emphasis to hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to shape a future of life in agreement with nature. This International Day is part of the year 2020 defined as a super year for biodiversity with major events planned (and for most postponed to a later date) such as the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity or the UN Biodiversity Forum. 2020 is a year of reflection, opportunity and solutions. It is expected, from each of us, that we will build back better by using this time to increase the resilience of nations and communities as we recover from this pandemic. Hopefully this will be the year when, more than ever, the world can signal a strong will for a global framework that will bend the curve on biodiversity loss for the assistance of humans and all life on Earth.
(Dr Shazia Reyaz Shah is a research scholar at the Zoology Department at Kashmir University and Dr Bilal A Bhat an Associate Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology-SKUAST Srinagar. Views are their own, Shaziashah121@gmail.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)