Current Affairs

International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB): We are part of the solution

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    24th May, 2021
  • Context

    To celebrate natural diversity and spread awareness, May 22 is marked every year as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) globally. 

  • Background

    • The United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity came into force in 1993 to increase understanding and awareness about biodiversity and its issues.
    • May 22 has been celebrated as ‘World Biodiversity Day’, or ‘International day of Biological Diversity’ since 2001, primarily to create awareness among people and enhance efforts towards conserving biological diversity in land and waterscapes across the world.
    • Each year the biological diversity day observes a theme that aids in the conservation efforts.
    • Biodiversity Day 2021 is being celebrated under the slogan: “We’re part of the solution #ForNature.”
      • This year's theme is a continuation of the momentum generated last year through the slogan: "Our solutions are in nature", which served as a reminder that biodiversity remains the answer to several sustainable development challenges. 
      • From nature-based solutions to climate, health issues, food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity is the foundation upon which we can build back better.

    Other similar initiatives

    • 22nd March: World Water Day
    • Last Saturday of March: Earth Hour
    • 22nd April: Earth Day
    • 5th June: World Environment Day
    • Every third Friday of May: National Endangered Species Day  
  • Analysis

    What is Biodiversity?

    • Biodiversity, or biological diversity, means the variety of living beings on Earth.
    • The numbers of species on planet are variously estimated between 8 million and 15 million, including plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and other forms of life.
    • Only around 2 million, however, are identified and recorded by scientists.
    • All life forms that we see or can’t see by with our naked eyes, collectively constitute the diversity on earth.
    • India is one of the megadiverse countries in the world.
    • With only about 2.4 percent of the land area in the world but supports nearly 8 percent of the species diversity with over 45,000 species plants and about 91,000 animals.
    • India harbours 2 of the megadiverse hot spots in the world namely Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas.
  • Understanding the categories of Living organism

    • Living organisms were categorised by Robert J Whittaker into five kingdoms in 1969. They were expanded to seven kingdoms by Ruggiero et al in 2015.
    • These are monera, archaea, protozoa, chromista, fungi, plants and animals.
    • Prokaryotic: Monera and archaea are prokaryotic domains with microscopic, unicellular cells without a membrane-bound genetic material. Most of them depend on other life forms for their food but some of them can photosynthesise.
    • Eukaryotic: The eukaryotic domain contains the other five — protozoa, chromista, fungi, plants and animals — which have a nucleus.
      • Out of these, protozoans are unicellular while chromistans and fungi are single as well as multi-celled.
    • Multi-cellular and organized: Plants and animals are essentially multi-cellular and organised structurally into complex units of organs and their systems.
    • A few protozoans, all chromista and plants are producers but the rest require pre-formed food sources. There are more differences that make them unique.

    The number game

    • Each one of these kingdoms contain a large number of organisms.
    • A 10-year-old study conservatively estimates the number of species on earth to be 8.7 million. These various life forms together add up to more than 1.6 million known species on our planet.
    • Other counts suggest 80 per cent of the species are still undiscovered. These numbers represent the richness and not abundance of the vastitude of micro- and macro-organisms.
  • How threatened is our biodiversity?

    • Various levels and forms of biodiversity such as ecosystems, species, genes across all taxonomic ranges are threatened, and facing an alarming rate of extinction.
    • An estimated one million species are under threat of extinction, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. It is estimated that over 80 per cent of the biodiversity decline is caused by habitat destruction and degradation.
    • A report by the World Wildlife Fundindicates 12,505 plant; 1,204 mammal; 1,469 birds; 1,215 reptile; 2,100 amphibian; 2,386 fish and 1,414 insect species are considered threatened.
    • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one in every four species of all major taxa are threatened.
    • Nearly 75 per cent of the crop-genetic diversity and animal breeds are lost and the remaining 90 per cent of the genetic diversity is under threat.
  • Why biodiversity is essential for survival?

    • Fundamental for survival: All life forms, whether big or small, have important roles to play in their ecosystem. Together, they form the fundamentals of healthy and well-functioning processes in nature that supply abundant oxygen, water and a variety of food types, imperative for the survival of all beings.
    • Essential ecosystem provider: These pathways are well-linked and inter-dependent for providing all essential ecosystem services such as pollination, control of pests, enhancing growth of plants for more food, production of medicines and many other routine utility items in our households.
    • Healthy decomposing: Additionally, many of these living forms keep the planet clean by decomposing and treating waste.
    • Mitigating climate change: Biodiversity can mitigate climate change. All producers consume carbon dioxide for their food production, helping the intake of greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon is also stored as a macronutrient in the cells of life forms.
    • Balancing greenhouse gases: The majority of microbial biodiversity help store carbon and other greenhouse gases beneath our feet in the earth. It thus helps reduce their harmful impact by reducing the quantity to safe limits.
    • Boost to economy: Biodiversity also boosts the economy. The global ecosystem services provide benefits of $125-140 trillionper year i.e, more than one-and-a-half times the size of the global gross domestic product.
  • How human is adversely impact the biodiversity?

    • Human activities in the name of development have inadvertently or deliberately contributed to huge losses of biodiversity.
    • Various impacts are already evident, such as
      • imbalances in the cyclic pathways of ecosystems, nutrient exchange
      • climate change
      • pollution
      • loss of food diversity leading to global food security issues
      • land degradation causing natural disasters as well reducing the quality of soil, encroachment of wild habitats
      • increased probability of novel diseases (like the ongoing pandemic), etc
    • Economic losses estimated at $6-11 trillion per yearhave been estimated just from land degradation.
  • What needs to be done?

    • Renewed targets: There must be renewed ambition from the world’s governments to establish large-scale conservation areas, placed in the most valuable hotspots for biodiversity worldwide, such as small islands with species found nowhere else.
    • Transforming the food sector: There is need to transform food systems to produce more on less land. If every farmer on Earth used the best available farming practices, only half of the total area of cropland would be needed to feed the world.
    • Policy measures for climate change: Without a similar level of ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will ensure the world’s wildlife fares badly this century. Only a comprehensive set of policy measures that transform our relationship with the land and rapidly scale down pollution can build the necessary momentum.
    • Stopping food wastage: There are lots of other inefficiencies that could be ironed out too, by reducing the amount of waste produced during transport and food processing, for example. Society at large can help in this effort by shifting towards healthier and more sustainable diets, and reducing food waste.

    Important Indian Acts for Conservation of Biodiversity:

    • National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems.
    • Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017.
    • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
    • Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Conclusion

    The current pandemic is a wakeup call for all of us to build a sustainable economy collaboratively to conserve nature and biodiversity to gain the lost glory. Implementation of existing policies and laws on biological diversity, conservation of ecosystems (national parks and sanctuaries) and adopt responsible consumerism. It is important to embark on the principles of conservation at the individual level including health, hygiene and lifestyles.