International Day for Biological Diversity 2018 – A Time to Celebrate… and to Renew Our Commitment
The 22 May marks the International Day for Biological Diversity 2018, but why is it such a big deal?
Well, simply put, biodiversity refers to the variety of life all around us. And that includes all life, from tiny plant life to the biggest animals. And the reason it’s so important is that it plays a critical role in meeting human needs as well as maintaining the ecological processes upon which our, and by extension the planet’s, survival depends. The more species we lose, the less diverse life on this planet becomes and the more unhealthy our ecosystem is. On the other hand, if we conserve our unique biodiversity then human life, and the planet, will be able to thrive.
So you’ll agree, that since biodiversity is concerned with the kind of world, and the kind of land, that we want to live in and to pass on to our children and grandchildren, it should be a pretty big deal to all of us.
The theme for International Day for Biological Diversity 2018 is “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity” which was chosen to mark the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity and to highlight progress made in the achievement of its objectives at the national and global levels.
It is therefore appropriate to reflect on what has been achieved in the last 25 years, but also to regather our energies and commit to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
A rich legacy
South Africa has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, from Southern Right Whales to tiny wildflowers and the Western Cape is one of the hotspots for biodiversity worldwide. That’s because we have the Cape Floristic Region, which contains an estimated 9500 species, 70% of which are endemic to the area.
South Africa has about 240 species of mammals, more than 700 species of birds, almost 500 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 630 species of butterflies.
Biodiversity is crucial to our survival. It provides us with clean air, food, economic opportunities, medicine, soil for agriculture and recreational enjoyment. It is the biological and social capital that supports the entire human race.
Threats and challenges
The biggest threat to our unique biodiversity is human population expansion. As our population grows we need more land for housing, agriculture and business so that everyone can live good quality lives. However, when that land encroaches upon ecologically sensitive areas, the balance of the biodiversity begins to tip and that can have devastating consequences on the landscape.
That’s why we need to start building with sustainability in mind. Humans can, and must, live in harmony with their environment and that starts with making sure that when we do begin to utilise new patches of land, that we do so in a manner which allows the ecological balance to be maintained. This can include building with materials made from invasive species, building smaller houses with smaller ecological footprints and utilising greener energy sources such as solar and wind.
State of Biodiversity 2017
CapeNature has been compiling State of Biodiversity reports every five years since 2002. These reports provide an indication of the state of the ecosystems of the Western Cape Province (WCP). The 2017 report provides some insights into the current health of the WCP’s biodiversity, species and ecosystems. The video below presents some of the most important findings while the full report can be downloaded here.