What is biodiversity and how do we protect it?

Honey sits on top of a pollinating flower

The annual World Summit on Biodiversity, COP15, has been delayed by two months until December and will now be hosted in Canada rather than China, according to environmental charities.

This is followed by concerns that the Chinese government will postpone the event for the fourth time in 2023 due to Covid-19 – the conference was originally scheduled to take place in 2020.

The summit will give governments the opportunity to come up with a long-term plan to reverse the threat to life on Earth – almost a third of all species are currently endangered by human activities.

What is biodiversity and why is it important?

Biodiversity is the variety of all life on Earth – animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms such as bacteria.

Animals and plants provide humans with everything they need to survive – including fresh water, food and medicine.

However, we cannot have these benefits from individual species – we need a variety of animals and plants to be able to work together and thrive. In other words, we need biodiversity.

Village at the edge of the sea surrounded by mangrove trees on the right and left of the image

Mangroves provide protection against rising sea levels for cities in the Philippines

Plants are also very important for improving our natural environment – purifying the air we breathe, limiting temperature rise and providing protection against climate change.

Mangrove swamps and coral reefs can act as a barrier to erosion from rising sea levels. And the common trees found in cities like the London plane tree or the tulip, are excellent at absorbing carbon dioxide and removing pollutants from the air.

How many species are endangered?

It is normal for species to evolve and become extinct over time – 98% of all species that have ever lived have become extinct.

However, species extinction is now occurring between 1,000 times faster than scientists would expect to see.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has maintained a “red list” of endangered species since 1964. More than 142,000 species have been assessed and 29% are considered endangered, which means they have a very high risk of extinction.

graph showing how one in four species assessed by the IUCN Red List is at risk of extinction, including 40% of amphibians and 14% of birds

graph showing how one in four species assessed by the IUCN Red List is at risk of extinction, including 40% of amphibians and 14% of birds

What are countries trying to agree on in Canada?

It is hoped that an agreement can be reached to stop what scientists call the “sixth mass extinction”.

Governments will try to agree on a long-term action plan – called the Biodiversity Framework after 2020.

Its main goal is to slow down the rate of biodiversity loss by 2030 and to ensure that by 2050, biodiversity is “valued, maintained, restored… and provides the benefits necessary for all people”.

What are the biggest threats to biodiversity?

In 2019, a United Nations report reported that harvesting, logging, hunting and fishing all had an impact.

Between 2001 and 2020, the world lost 411 million hectares of tree cover – 16% of which were primary forests. These are very mature forests, which took hundreds – if not thousands – of years to grow. The destruction of these rich environments can have a very serious impact on biodiversity.

Biodiversity loss is occurring worldwide, but the Natural History Museum in London has found that Malta, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Australia have experienced the biggest changes – due to pollution, rapid industrialization and overuse of water.

Problems caused by habitat loss

Problems caused by habitat loss

Climate change is also difficult for animals and plants to adapt to, warns the UN.

He says the extinction of the species would be less if global warming were limited to 1.5 ° C.

What kind of action is proposed?

The post-2020 framework has four objectives:

  • increased conservation

  • resources used as sustainably as possible

  • equal distribution of natural resources

  • increased financial support for the protection of biodiversity

Wants more use of trees and plants to absorb carbon dioxide and balance greenhouse gas emissions

However, the UN also warns that planting trees in undiscovered landscapes could introduce invasive species, which “could have a significant negative impact on biodiversity”.

Rows of young trees ready for new planting in Uganda

Bulk tree planting must be suitable for the landscape to avoid the introduction of foreign species

To achieve these goals, governments and private organizations are committed to giving at least 2 152 billion £ ($ 200 billion) a year by 2030 – with 5% going to developing countries.

So far, the average expenditure has been 59 59 billion – 69 69 billion £ ($ 78 billion – $ 91 billion) per year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.