2010: International Year of Biodiversity

Posted: 4 January 2010

In a bid to curb the unprecedented loss of the world's species due to human activity - at a rate some experts put at 1,000 times the natural progression - the United Nations is marking 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, with a slew of events highlighting the vital role the phenomenon plays in maintaining the life support system on Planet Earth.

International Year of Biodiversity logo
International Year of Biodiversity logo
"Humans are part of nature's rich diversity and have the power to protect or destroy it," the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said in summarizing the Year's main message, with its focus on raising awareness to generate public pressure for action by the world's decision makers.

Arctic Fox
Arctic Fox
Arctic Fox. Photo © Flickr - Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson
"Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on. Human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate.

"These losses are irreversible, impoverish us all and damage the life support systems we rely on every day. But we can prevent them."

The Convention - which opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, entered into force at the end of 1993 and now has 193 Parties - is based on the premise that the world's diverse ecosystems purify the air and the water that are the basis of life, stabilize and moderate the Earth's climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants.

As a former UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Töpfer, put it: "If any part of the web suffers breaks down, the future of life on the planet will be at risk." That is why the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.

Although initial celebrations began in November under the slogan "Biodiversity is life, biodiversity is our life," the official launch will take place in Berlin on 11 January. This will be followed on 21 and 22 January by the first major event of the Year, a high-profile meeting at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is expected to bring together heads of state, royalty and their representatives.

A host of other events - meetings, symposia, multi-media exhibitions - will follow throughout the year in venues around world, from Trondheim, Norway, to Delhi, India, from Doha, Qatar, to Cartagena, Colombia, and from Shanghai, China, to Nairobi, Kenya, culminating in a high-level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York at the start of the General Assembly's 65th annual General Debate in September and an official closing in Kanazawa, Japan, in December.

Indus river dolphin
Indus river dolphin
Rescue of Indus river dolphin (Platanista indi), Sukkur, Province of Sind, Pakistan, Kirthar canal. Photo © François Xavier PELLETIER / WWF-Canon
"A wide variety of environmental goods and services that we take for granted are under threat, with profound and damaging consequences for ecosystems, economies and livelihoods," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in November at the start of the pre-celebrations.

"In this International Year, we must counter the perception that people are disconnected from our natural environment. We must increase understanding of the implications of losing biodiversity. In 2010, I call on every country and each citizen of our planet to engage in a global alliance to protect life on Earth."