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Biodiversity Matters: International Day for Biological Diversity

  • 22 May 2024

The term "biodiversity" was coined in 1985 by the evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson by combining "biological diversity."

Biodiversity refers to all life on Earth, from tiny microbes to vast rainforests, and how they interact with each other. It's like the threads that weave the fabric of our planet, holding everything together.

  • The International Day for Biological Diversity, also known as World Biodiversity Day, is an internationally recognized day by the United Nations to raise awareness about biodiversity issues. This observance takes place annually on May 22nd. The theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) 2024, "Be part of the Plan," urges all stakeholders to take action to stop and reverse biodiversity loss by backing the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, commonly known as the Biodiversity Plan.
  • The 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report states that about one million animal and plant species are nearing extinction, the highest number in recorded history. The 2022 WWF Living Planet Report shows a 69% average decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians since 1970. The last mass extinction was over 65 million years ago. Studies show 40% of Earth's land is degraded. The World Economic Forum's 2022 Global Risks Report ranks biodiversity loss as the third most urgent threat for the next decade.
  • Guardians of Life: The Essential Role of Biodiversity in Sustaining Our World
  • 1. Biodiversity's Role in Health and Food Security
  • Micronutrients: Indigenous produce in each country, including wild greens and grains, adapted to local conditions, provide crucial micronutrients, historically vital for community health. However, modern trends like simplified diets and processed foods have led to global micronutrient deficiencies affecting approximately one-third of the population.
  • Crop Diversity: Reliance on a few crops like wheat, corn, and rice for nearly 60% of plant-based calories poses risks to food supply resilience and dietary variety. In Asia, rice cultivation has narrowed drastically, with Thailand exemplifying this, where half of rice cultivation land yields only two varieties, highlighting the lack of crop diversity.
  • Species Preservation: Historically, species preservation was valued for societal and ecosystem well-being. Upholding this value within contemporary agricultural systems is crucial to mitigate diet-related illnesses and reduce the environmental impact of food production.
  • 2. Biodiversity's Role in Disease Prevention
  • New Medicines: Plants are crucial sources of medicines, with 25% of modern drugs from rainforest plants and 70% of cancer drugs from natural sources. Losing species means missing potential new medicines.
  • Zoonotic Diseases: Protected areas with high biodiversity are linked to lower incidences of diseases like Lyme disease and malaria. Encroaching into natural habitats through activities like deforestation increases the risk of zoonotic diseases, with 60% of infectious diseases originating from animals.
  • Genetic Diversity: Species with significant genetic diversity adapt better to environmental changes. For instance, cheetahs' loss of genetic diversity due to inbreeding renders them vulnerable to sudden environmental changes, like new viruses, threatening their survival.
  • 3. Economic Advantages of Biodiversity
  • According to the World Economic Forum's Nature Risk Rising Report, over half of the world's GDP ($44 trillion) relies heavily or moderately on nature.
  • Businesses face significant risks due to escalating nature loss, including the pharmaceutical industry's global sales of natural-based medicines worth an estimated $75 billion annually. Moreover, natural wonders such as coral reefs are crucial for industries like food and tourism. By prioritizing biodiversity, the economy can grow and become more resilient.
  • Investing in nature restoration yields economic benefits, with every dollar spent leading to at least $9 in returns. Transforming agricultural and food production methods could unlock $4.5 trillion in new business opportunities annually by 2030 while averting trillions of dollars in social and environmental damages.
  • 4. Biodiversity's Impact on Livelihoods
  • Human livelihoods derive significant value from natural ecosystems, estimated at around $125 trillion annually globally.
  • Water-dependent jobs account for three out of four jobs worldwide, while over 60% of the world's working poor are employed in the agricultural sector.
  • Forest ecosystems support the livelihoods of over 1.6 billion people in the Global South. In India, despite forests contributing only 7% to the GDP, they sustain 57% of rural Indian communities' livelihoods. Protecting and restoring ecosystems is crucial not just for nature but also for the communities dependent on them.
  • 5. Biodiversity's Protective Role
  • Natural Protection: Trees, shrubs, wetlands, and grasslands manage water and soil, slowing water flow and enhancing soil's ability to absorb rainfall. Their removal can worsen flooding.
  • Mangrove Depletion: Over 35% of the world's mangroves depleted for human activities increases flood and sea-level rise risks. Coral reefs and mangroves act as natural barriers, protecting coastlines from waves and storms.
  • Combating Climate Change: Protecting and restoring ecosystems is crucial for fighting climate change. Nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the CO2 mitigation needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 2°C. Trees and plants purify air and absorb carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change mitigation.
  • 6. Endangered Species and Mass Extinction
  • The IUCN's Red List identifies over 41,000 species, 28% of assessed species, at risk of extinction.
  • Extinction is natural, with five major events recorded in Earth's history, including the dinosaur extinction.
  • Human activities accelerate extinction rates, possibly leading to the sixth mass extinction.
  • Over half of land ecosystems have critically low species diversity.
  • A 10% decline in biodiversity compromises ecosystem services, with over a quarter of Earth's land surface already affected.
  • Unmasking the Threats: How Human Actions Endanger Biodiversity
  • Habitat loss and Fragmentation:
    • Human activities like deforestation, urbanization, agriculture, and infrastructure development destroy natural habitats, causing biodiversity loss. Large habitats are fragmented into isolated patches by roads and urban areas.
    • Amazon deforestation from logging, ranching, and agriculture threatens species like jaguars and sloths. Road and dam construction fragments forests, isolating wildlife.
    • The Western Ghats face severe habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • Unsustainable Resource Use: Exploitation exceeds natural replenishment, degrading ecosystems.
    • Overfishing: Practices like trawling and illegal fishing deplete fish stocks and damage marine habitats, endangering species like the Atlantic bluefin tuna.
    • Deforestation: Agricultural expansion and logging threaten species like Indian rosewood.
    • Hunting and Poaching: Illegal trade targets tigers, elephants, and rhinos, driving them towards extinction.
  • Pollution:
    • Air pollution harms animal respiratory systems, reduces plant photosynthesis, and causes acid rain that damages ecosystems and aquatic life.
    • Water pollution contaminates water bodies with toxins, heavy metals, and plastics, reducing biodiversity and causing fish population declines; nutrient runoff leads to algal blooms and oxygen depletion.
    • Plastic pollution endangers marine life, with millions of animals harmed or killed by ingestion or entanglement, impacting species like sea turtles and seabirds.
    • Soil pollution contaminates soils with chemicals and pesticides, harming the soil
  • Human Population and Overconsumption: Overpopulation strains Earth's resources, leading to habitat loss for agriculture, industry, and urbanisation. Urban expansion diminishes biodiversity, favoring adaptable species over specialists. Unique species face local extinction due to urbanisation's adverse effects.
  • Biodiversity and Invasive Speceis: Introduction of invasive species, often unintentionally introduced by humans, can harm biodiversity and ecosystems. For example, rabbits brought to Australia caused widespread devastation by consuming plants and contributing to erosion. Islands are especially vulnerable to invasive species. Weeds like carrot grass and Lantana threaten native species, while the illegal introduction of African catfish endangers indigenous fish populations.
  • Co-extinctions: Occur when a species becomes extinct, leading to the extinction of other plant and animal species associated with it in an obligatory manner. For instance, the extinction of a host fish species results in the loss of its unique assemblage of parasites. Similarly, coevolved plant-pollinator mutualisms face the risk of extinction, as the loss of one species inevitably leads to the extinction of the other.
  • Global Climate Change and Biodiversity:
    • Direct Impact on Habitats: Climate change causes habitat loss and species distribution changes due to temperature shifts and sea level rise.
    • Changes in Phenology: Disrupts species' life cycles, affecting breeding, migration, and flowering patterns.
    • Extreme Weather Events: More frequent heatwaves and storms harm biodiversity by destroying habitats and reducing populations.
    • Ocean Acidification: Acidification, caused by climate change, harms marine biodiversity, especially organisms with calcium carbonate shells.
    • Examples: Climate change-induced coral bleaching endangers the Great Barrier Reef, impacting marine biodiversity, Climate change affects the Himalayas, causing glacier retreat and altering habitats for species like snow leopard.

BioGuardians: India's Dynamic Biodiversity Shield

The Indian government has implemented various initiatives to safeguard biodiversity, encompassing:

  • Conducting surveys, inventorying, taxonomic validation, and assessing threats to floral and faunal resources.The Research Organisations like the Wildlife Institute of India, and the Bombay Natural History Society, conduct research on wildlife conservation.
  • Evaluating forest cover to establish a precise database for planning and monitoring purposes.
  • Establishing a Protected Area Network comprising National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Conservation, and Community Reserves.
  • Designating Biosphere Reserves to conserve representative ecosystems.
  • Implementing species-oriented initiatives like Project Tiger and Project Elephant.
  • Undertaking ex-situ conservation efforts like in Aacharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden located in Howrah. Here, approximately 1400 species have been preserved to complement in-situ conservation measures, Corbett National Park, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, and Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve are just a few examples.
  • Enacting the Biological Diversity Act of 2002 to conserve the country's biological resources and regulate access to them. This Act aims to ensure equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization. Additionally, the establishment of a National Biodiversity Authority and State Biodiversity Boards in all states facilitates the implementation of the Act's provisions.
  • To ensure the protection of flora and fauna within protected areas, State Forest Departments prepare Management Plans outlining activities over a ten-year period.
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 mandates careful consideration before the State Government approves any activities within protected areas.The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), empowered under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, to apprehend and prosecute wildlife offenders.
  • Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010: Formulated to preserve wetlands within states, ensuring their protection and sustainable management.
  • National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-System: A Centrally Sponsored Scheme assisting states in managing wetlands, including Ramsar sites, across the nation.
  • Financial assistance is provided by the Central Government to States and Union Territories through Centrally Sponsored Schemes such as Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitat, Project Tiger, and Project Elephant, aimed at enhancing wildlife protection and habitat conservation.
  • Diclofenac Ban and Vulture Conservation: The government prohibited the veterinary use of diclofenac to protect Gyps vultures. Conservation breeding programs are ongoing at various locations under organisations like the Bombay Natural History Society
  • Conservation efforts are directed towards prioritized or threatened medicinal plants harbored in designated Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas (MPCAs), primarily forested regions.
  • The National Afforestation & Eco-development Board, overseen by the Ministry, leads afforestation, tree planting, and ecological restoration efforts nationwide, with a focus on rehabilitating degraded and ecologically fragile areas.
  • Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats: Modified to incorporate the 'Recovery of Endangered Species' component, focusing on 16 species, including Snow Leopard, Vultures, and Indian Rhinoceros.
  • Non-forestry activities such as mining, industries, and infrastructure development in forested regions may endanger forests and biodiversity. To mitigate this, compensatory afforestation is conducted on equivalent non-forest land, declared as Protected Forests/Reserve Forests under the Indian Forest Act of 1927. For Central Government PSU projects, compensatory afforestation covers double the area of degraded forest land, funded by the user agency, to enhance and conserve biodiversity in the degraded forest.
  • Wildlife Crime Control Bureau: Established to combat illegal wildlife trade, including trafficking of endangered species.

Uniting for Biodiversity: Global Conservation Frontiers

  • The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF): ratified during the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) after extensive four-year deliberations and negotiations. This groundbreaking Framework, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and building upon the Convention's earlier Strategic Plans, outlines an ambitious roadmap towards achieving a harmonious coexistence with nature worldwide by 2050. Central to the Framework are four overarching goals for 2050 and twenty-three targets to be achieved by 2030.
  • UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): The CBD, formed at the 1992 Earth Summit, aims to conserve biodiversity, use its components sustainably, and share genetic resource benefits equitably. It incorporates the precautionary and polluter pays principles. In 2020, the CBD introduced the 2050 Vision for a balance between economic development and biodiversity conservation.
  • In 2022, a global agreement aimed to protect 30% of land and ocean areas by 2030. The 2020-2030 period is the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.

Related Conventions:

  • Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (2000): Address global challenges, emphasizing biodiversity.
  • 2030 Agenda (2015): Includes 17 SDGs, highlighting biodiversity's role in sustainable development.
  • Paris Agreement (2015): Stresses biodiversity conservation.
  • New Urban Agenda (2016): Focuses on urban biodiversity.
  • Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO): Tracks progress on 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2010-2020).

Other Key Conventions:

  • Ramsar Convention (1971): Wetland conservation.
  • CITES (1973): Regulates trade to protect endangered species.
  • CMS (1979): Protects migratory species.
  • IPPC (1951): Prevents spread of plant pests.
  • ITPGRFA (2001): Conserves plant genetic resources.
  • Nairobi Convention (1985): Protects Western Indian Ocean marine environments.
  • Nagoya Protocol (2010): Ensures fair sharing of genetic resources benefits.
  • Cartagena Protocol (2000): Manages risks of modified organisms.
  • UNCCD (1994): Addresses desertification and land degradation.

These conventions collectively advance global biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.


Biodiversity loss not only exacerbates climate change but is also exacerbated by it, highlighting the intricate interplay between ecological degradation and climatic shifts. Addressing this complex issue is imperative as it represents a vicious cycle from which we must urgently extricate ourselves.

As human activities increasingly threaten ecosystems, recognizing the benefits of biodiversity is paramount. It is imperative that we act collectively to protect biodiversity, safeguarding not only the natural world but also our own long-term interests as a species.

Reference Articles:

  1. https://unfccc.int/news/why-biodiversity-matters
  2. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/5-reasons-why-biodiversity-matters-human-health-economies-business-wellbeing-coronavirus-covid19-animals-nature-ecosystems/
  3. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/international-day-biodiversity/
  4. https://www.un.org/en/observances/biological-diversity-day
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/12/what-is-biodiversity-and-why-does-it-matter-to-us
  6. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/what-is-biodiversity
  7. https://www.storaenso.com/en/sustainability/biodiversity/why-biodiversity-matters
  8. https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/what-is-biodiversity.html
  9. https://www.amnh.org/research/center-for-biodiversity-conservation/what-is-biodiversity
  10. https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/issues/biodiversity-important.htm
  11. https://royalsociety.org/news-resources/projects/biodiversity/why-is-biodiversity-important/#:~:text=Biodiversity%20is%20essential%20for%20the,also%20value%20nature%20of%20itself.
  12. https://www.unep.org/events/un-day/international-day-biological-diversity-2024#:~:text=Overview,-When%3A%2022%20May&text=%E2%80%9CBe%20part%20of%20the%20Plan,to%20as%20the%20Biodiversity%20Plan.
  13. https://www.cbd.int/gbf
  14. https://carbonneutral.com.au/sustaining-life-on-earth-international-day-for-biological-diversity/
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