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250 guests enjoyed the evening atmosphere in the Central Hall at the launch of the UK's International Year of Biodiversity

The International Year of Biodiversity starts officially in 2010, but here at the Museum we celebrated the launch of the UK's Year of Biodiversity on Wednesday evening, 25 November.

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We also launched our great new website for IYB-UK (as it's known to those working on it) which will bring together what you need to know about what's going on in the UK.


The Museum is coordinating all the IYB organisations and groups across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who are joining the biodiversity activities from now through next year. It's going to be a busy but inspiring time.

 

If you're new to the concept of 'biodiversity', have a look at our news article about the event, featuring a video interview with some of theliz-sharp.jpg speakers including Liz Bonnin (pictured here) who presented the BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory. Biodiversity is a word you'll hear lots about in the coming months.

 

When the United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, they asked the world to celebrate the rich variety of life - biodiversity - all through next year. The sad fact is we may be losing species 1,000 times faster than the natural rate because of human activities. So we need to make 2010 count. That's why we've started early.

Marie Clements, our communications officer, was at the event and told me about some of the things that are being planned for the future:

 

'There will be exhibitions, talks, artworks, citizen science experiments and festivals. People of all ages can get involved. They can join surveys, including dormice, farmyard birds, butterflies, hedgehogs and water. And fun activities like bat walks, bird-watching, honey and apple tasting, orchard visits and tree planting.'

 

Sounds like a 'biodiversity' of things to mark up in your calendar ahead! To guide you through, use our local IYB events search on our IYB-UK website. (Check back regularly as it is a work in progress.)

 

From farmers to charities, wildlife rangers to councils, schools and colleges to zoos, museums and botanic gardens, the UK has one of the strongest programmes in the world to celebrate IYB2010.

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Celebrate the biodiversity of life we have all around us

While we gear up our local and national celebrations, there will be big decisions and moves to be made on a global scale too. One of the key speakers at last night's launch was Ahmed Djoghlaf from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who heads the global campaign. He highlighted the pressing issue of biodiversity loss, describing how, ‘Climate change is emerging as one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss.'

 

It seems fitting that on the same night as our launch, President Obama announced he would attend the crucial Copenhagen Climate Summit which kicks off on 7 December. Some are pinning their hopes on the decisions made at this conference, others are less optimistic. See my previous blog post on the warnings from Pavan Sukhdev at our Annual Science Lecture about the world's disappearing coral reefs.

To explore the wider picture, visit our biodiversity web pages and the 2010 International Year of the Biodiversity website.

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A healthy and diverse hard coral reef before any signs of 'bleaching' from acidification

On the evening of 16 November at the Museum's Annual Science Lecture, to a gathering of about 400 listeners, speaker Pavan Sukhdev explained how the severe threat to the world’s coral reefs – on which half a billion people’s livelihoods depend – could be devastating. 'We tend to forget that carbon emissions are also destroying our tropical coral reefs,' he warned.

 

Governments worry about conservation measures costing money. But the big threat, Sukhdev argued, is that if we don't preserve nature it will make us poorer rather than richer. He called for a shift in our thinking, advising that we put a financial value on the services that ecosystems provide, rather than taking it for granted that these resources are free.

 

Sukhdev expressed concerns about the decisions that will be made at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit, if governments set carbon dioxide emissions levels. If these are set too high, then oceans will become too acidic for corals to form and we may lose them entirely.

 

Susan Vittery, our Nature online website manager was at the lecture and was suitably impressed: 'It was a really informative evening. Pavan Sukhdev is an incredibly charismatic speaker who explained complex economic and environmental issues in a really clear, succinct way that everyone could understand. Fascinating.'


Find out more about this inspiring lecture in our news story and video interview.

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Pavan Sukhdev
is a senior banker at Deutsche Bank and is leading the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy initiative which includes The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity TEEB study.


Learn more about the extinction of our coral reefs and how oceans are affected by acidification.

 

There’s also more on our website about the rich biodiversity of life on our planet and what is being done to protect it in the run-up to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

 

Watch out for the Museum’s Annual Science Lecture next autumn.