International Day for Biological Diversity

Biodiversity is first coined by Walter G. Rosen in 1985. Rosen defined biodiversity as the “variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms.” In Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity refers to the diversity of species on earth, the diversity of ecosystems in which living organisms live, and the diversity of genes possessed by them.

Sources of biodiversity serve as the foundation in building our civilization. We depend on biodiversity for so many things: food, water, medicine, a stable climate, economic growth, etc. Over half of global GDP is dependent on nature. More than 1 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods. Fish provides 20% of animal protein for about 3 billion people, and more than 80% of human diet is provided by plants. 80% of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant-based medicine for basic health care. And land and ocean absorb more than half of all carbon emissions.

Disappearing Biodiversity

Ecosystems are intricately interconnected much like a net, and biodiversity helps mitigate the impacts of climate change and other damages on ecosystems, facilitating their rapid recovery. Just as a web cannot function properly when it is disconnected, when biodiversity declines, so does ecosystems’ ability to function and survive. In addition, it has been proven that animals that have lost their habitat can spread zoonoses by contacting with humans. A representative example of this is the coronavirus.

Biodiversity has continued to decline for the past two decades. Up to one million species are threatened with extinction, irreplaceable ecosystems like parts of the Amazon rainforest are turning from carbon sinks into carbon sources due to deforestation. And 85 percent of wetlands, such as salt marshes and mangrove swamps which absorb large amounts of carbon, have disappeared.

According to a 2016 report released by the World Wildlife Fund [WWF], populations of vertebrate animals declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. Freshwater species experienced an 81 percent decline in the same time span. Human activities such as pollution, habitat destruction, and overcommitment of resources have increased extinction rates. The United Nations Environmental Programme [UNEP]’s Global Environment Outlook 4 recently stated that species extinction rate is occurring at 100 times the natural rate. Scientists estimate that this acceleration will continue to a rate between 1,000 and 10,000 in the decades to come.

Convention on Biological Diversity

It was found that since the 1900s, the rate of extinction of living things has increased by 50 to 100 times because of economic development by humans. As a result, the awareness of the crisis regarding the reduction of biodiversity has spread around the world. Furthermore, as industries based on biological resources such as food and medicine have developed, the awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and the value of biological resources has increased.

In June 1987, the UNEP decided to set an international action plan for the conservation of biodiversity. After seven times of intergovernmental negotiations, they drafted the final agreement known as the Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD]. The CBD is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity, and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. The UN declared that the Convention “formally entered into force” on December 29, 1993. This is one of the three major conventions of the UN along with the UNFCCC and UNCCD, and 196 countries are currently registered for its implementation.

In December 2022, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD COP15] was chaired by China and was held in Canada. On the final day of negotiations, the conference resulted in the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework [GBF].

The above framework aims to halt and reverse biodiversity lose for the benefit of both people and the planet, and promote nature’s recovery by 2030. For this, it consists of four global goals for 2050 and 23 global targets for 2023, categorized under four broad themes: Biodiversity conservation and restoration, nature’s contributions to people, access and benefit-sharing, and tools and solutions for mainstreaming and implementation.

Theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity 2023: “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”

May 22 is The International Day for Biological Diversity [IDB] proclaimed by the UN to increase awareness of biodiversity conservation and its related issues, and to emphasize the importance of biodiversity.

On IDB, various activities and events related to biodiversity are held all around the world. On this day, people share information on biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, hold educational programs, campaigns for biodiversity conservation, and events for the protection and restoration of plants and animals. Additionally, governments, NGOs, academia, and civil society collaborate to raise awareness of biodiversity and discuss related issues.

This year’s theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity is “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity.” The urgency for the international community to move from agreement to action in restoring and protecting biodiversity is encapsulated in it. The International Day for Biological Diversity urges the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework [GBF], and emphasizes the importance of implementing other international treaties, such as the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].