The 22nd of May marks the International Day of Biological Diversity and this year’s theme is a reminder of what we have always known, “Our solutions are in Nature”. This day was chosen by the UN (United Nations) to create an awareness and increase understanding about issues around biodiversity.
The recent World Bee Day commemoration (20 May 2020) reminded us that without natural pollinators like bees, food security could not be achieved. About 75% of global crop agriculture relies on animal pollination. About 10% of the worlds population depends directly on the ocean for protein and employment.
Biodiversity can be defined as the variety of animal and plant species within an area and the biological processes associated with those species. Given this definition, one can begin to see why it is important to be aware and understand issues around biodiversity, it is that which our livelihoods depend on. Threats to biodiversity pose a threat to human well-being, the environment and the economy in the long term.
According to the UN, approximately 25% of all plant and animal species are under threat of extinction. There are many factors that will increase this number, including but not limited to habitat destruction, pollution, poaching, over exploitation and climate change. In South Africa, the National Biodiversity Assessment 2018 reported that 13% of all assessed species on land and 18% of marine species are threatened.
South Africa is recognised globally as a biodiversity hotspot owing to the high levels of endimism (animals and plants found no where else). The CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) reports that South Africa only covers 2% of the world land surface yet hosts 10% or the world’s plant species, 7% of the world’s reptile, bird and mammal species and 15% of the world’s marine species.
The importance of biodiversity can not be understated. In South Africa, there is a government research institution devoted to creating an awareness and understanding the value of biodiversity and ensuring that it is translated in policy, SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute). Furthermore in 2019, protected area coverage in the ocean increased to 5% from 0.4%, protecting offshore marine species and ecosystems that were not protected before.
The figures show that not all is lost but at risk if the necessary action is not taken to alleviate the pressures on the environment and increase protection. Think about all the benefits that you enjoy daily from the rich biodiversity. How can you do better to alleviate the pressures on our environment and how can you make your voice heard on how it should be better managed in your home, community, province or country for future generations to enjoy?