International year of biodiversity UK launch

26 November 2009

Does biodiversity matter? Now is your chance to get active and find out with the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) 2010 UK partnership, at an event at the Natural History Museum last night.

The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB) and the global campaign is being run by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

CBD’s Dr Ahmed Djoghlaf was one of the key speakers at last night’s launch of the IYB-UK launch partnership that sets in motion a year of activities around the UK, from January to December 2010, to promote a better understanding of biodiversity and highlight biodiversity loss.

As governments fail to meet targets set to stem biodiversity loss after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Djoghlaf warns that there is a lack of urgency in their actions to stop the loss of biodiversity. In October 2010, governments will set new targets for the decade ahead.

What is biodiversity?

Half of the people interviewed in a UK government survey in 2009 did not know what biodiversity was.

Biodiversity is simply the diversity of plants and animals on Earth and the habitats they depend on. From minute microbes to mighty whales, it is a word that sums up the great variety of life on our planet.

Biodiversity catastrophe

Some scientists believe that there is a biodiversity catastrophe unfolding, perhaps even a mass extinction like the one that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

‘Today, the rate of species extinction may be 1,000 times higher than the natural background rate,’ says Dr Djoghlaf.

Climate change

‘Climate change is emerging as one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss,' says Dr Djoghlaf. 

'According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 30% of all known species may disappear before the end the century due to climate change.

'10% of species assessed to date will face an increasingly high risk of extinction for every 1°C rise in global mean surface temperature.’

Ecosystem services

Most of these losses are irreversible and are caused by human activities. They will affect the balance of natural ecosystems, the services they provide and the services we depend on.

Ecosystems such as coral reefs, for example, provide important services like coastal protection and fish nurseries, they are home to one quarter of all marine fish species.

These services are provided by nature for free even though they have huge economic value, a fact often overlooked, as Pavan Sukhdev highlighted in the Annual Science Lecture at the Museum last week.

IYB-UK activities

Djoghlaf praised the IYB-UK, with its 300 partners, as an example for other countries to follow.

IYB-UK has farmers, schools and charities, councils, zoos, museums including the Natural History Museum, and many more groups taking part.

Activities from talks, walks and exhibitions, to surveys and songs, will take place helping people to discover why biodiversity is important and find out ways to enjoy and preserve it in their local areas.

Success stories

Despite the threats to UK biodiversity, there have been some success stories. After an absence of 40 years, otters are now found in every county in England. And populations of the lady's slipper orchid are at their highest levels for 50 years.

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