By : DR. KONTHOUJAM KHELCHANDRA
The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated every year on 22 May to increase the understanding level and awareness of biodiversity related issues. The United Nations adopted this day to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992. The main theme for this year International Day for Biological Diversity 2019 is “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health” which mainly emphasize on biological diversity as the foundation for our food and health and a vital catalyst to transforming food systems and bettering human health.
It is important to spread awareness about human dependence on biodiversity for its existence. We should not forget that we are just one species among the diversity of various life forms that are found in our earth. Complete linkage between biodiversity, ecosystems and the provisions of benefits to human health as genuinely engrained in the strategic plan for biodiversity 2011-20 is of utmost importance for achieving ecological and livelihood security.
According to Cristina Pasca Palmer, present executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity “Biodiversity is the food we eat, the water we drink, and it is also the air we breathe. More than that, biodiversity is part of us, as we humans are part of nature”. As per the United Nations Earth Summit (1992) Biodiversity is ‘the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and ecosystems’. Biodiversity is part of our daily lives and livelihood, and constitutes resources upon which humanity rely on for its sustenance and survival. Therefore, conservation and sustainable use of biological resources is extremely important and necessary step.
There are numerous benefits provided by biodiversity to humanity. Some of these are (a) Ecosystem services: protection of water resources, soil formation and protection, nutrient cycling and storage, pollution breakdown and adsorption, contribution to climate stability, maintenance of ecosystems, recovery from unpredictable events etc. (b) Biological services: food, medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs, wood products, ornamental plants, diversity in genes, species and ecosystems. (c) Social services: research, education and training, recreation and tourism and cultural values.
Inspite of all the important natural services provided by biological diversity there has been constant threat which leads to the drastic decline in the biodiversity globally. Some of the eminent causes for loss of biodiversity are man-made like: Habitat destruction, uncontrolled exploitation, hunting and poaching, conversion of biodiversity rich areas for human settlement and industrial development, extension for agriculture, environmental pollution, encroachments of wetlands, destruction of coastal areas etc. Nevertheless, some of the natural causes like floods, earthquakes, landslides, competition among species, lack of pollination and diseases also cause loss of biodiversity. Apart from these, global warming is also a major threat likely to cause massive impact on the biodiversity.
If the global warming continues unabated in the current trajectory, it is predicted that almost a third of the global flora and fauna could become extinct. As estimated by experts, the current rapid extinction rate is 1,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate. These rates are much higher than previously estimated and likely still underestimated. So, in future there is probability of further rise in the extinction rates. To add to this disturbing scenario, scientist from Senckenberg biodiversity and climate research centre, Germany have projected that more than 80% of genetic diversity within species may disappear in certain groups of organism by 2080.
In the existing perspective, the role of the Intergovernmental science policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES) is significantly relevant by performing timely assessment of knowledge on biodiversity on regular basis. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and five other biodiversity related conventions adoption of IPBES as the science policy interface is a strategic development. These assessments will surely further aid in monitoring the progress towards CBD’s Aichi Targets of the Strategic plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. However, there are many constraints to the struggles for biodiversity conservation. For instance, low priority for conservation of living natural resources, exploitation of natural resources for monetary benefits, inadequate evidence on the values and knowledge about the species and ecosystems, and unplanned urbanisation and uncontrolled industrialisation causes hindrance to the efforts directed towards biodiversity conservation.
In view of the different benefits of biodiversity to humans whether it is storm surge protection, carbon sequestration, water filtration, oxygen generation and recreational possibilities, maintenance of ecological and livelihood security, conservation of biodiversity is particularly obligatory at this moment. Hence, we should undertake immediate actions targeted towards biodiversity conservation on priority basis and at the same time encourage and increase our support to policies that conserves our valuable natural resources.