Be Part of the Plan: Celebrate Biodiversity on May 22

Each year on May 22, the world comes together to celebrate the International Day for Biodiversity (IDB). This special day, proclaimed by the United Nations, is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of biodiversity issues. The observance commemorates the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on May 22, 1992, and provides a unique opportunity to foster wide support for the Convention, its Protocols, and related action frameworks, including the goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework—The Biodiversity Plan.

Recent scientific data on biodiversity loss paints a stark picture of the current state and future prospects of our planet’s ecosystems. The 2022 Living Planet Report by WWF reveals that vertebrate species populations have declined by an average of 69% since 1970. This decline is due to multiple factors, including habitat destruction, climate change, overexploitation, pollution, and the introduction of invasive species.

The Scale of Biodiversity Loss

The decline in biodiversity is vast and affects all regions of the world. For instance, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen a staggering 94% drop in wildlife populations, highlighting the severe impact of deforestation and habitat loss in the Amazon and other critical ecosystems​ (ScienceDaily)​​ (World Economic Forum)​. In Africa, species populations have decreased by 66%, while in the Asia-Pacific region, the decline is 55%.

The Map With The Regions Affected By Biodiversity Loss

International Day for Biodiversity 2024
By The 2022 Living Planet Report

Latin America and the Caribbean

The decline across Latin America and the Caribbean is far greater than in any other region, with a staggering 94% decrease between 1970 and 2018. This decline has been consistent throughout the entire period. Significant declines have affected all studied species groups, with freshwater fish, reptiles, and amphibians experiencing the most profound impacts.

Africa

Africa has shown a consistent decline in wildlife populations from 1970 to 2017, with mammals and freshwater fish experiencing more significant declines on average than other animal groups. However, some populations are defying the global trend. For example, mountain gorilla populations in the Virunga Mountains have grown to 604 individuals, up from 480 in 2010, despite years of civil unrest in the area.

Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific region exhibits a nearly continuous decline between 1970 and 2018, with monitored populations experiencing an average decline of 55%. This decline is evident across all taxonomic groups in the region. For instance, in South and West Australia, Australian sea lion pup numbers saw a 64% reduction between 1977 and 2019, attributed to various factors including hunting, entanglement in fishing gear or marine debris, and disease.

North America

North America saw a downward trend from 1970 to 2000. After this time, the trend stabilized before increasing from 2014 to 2018. While it is too early to say that species numbers are significantly increasing, it is an encouraging sign that there may be some population recoveries in North America.

Europe and Central Asia

Although the smallest recorded regional decline occurred in Europe and Central Asia, it’s important to recognize that many species were already in a depleted state when data collection began. Fortunately, some populations are recovering, and this year’s Living Planet Index shows more positive trends among bird and mammal populations. However, on average, amphibian, reptile, and freshwater fish populations are still declining.

Most Affected Natural Resources

Coral Reefs

Coral reefs, which are essential for marine biodiversity, have suffered immensely. Approximately 50% of warm-water coral reefs have been lost, primarily due to ocean warming and acidification driven by climate change. Without significant efforts to limit global warming to well below 2°C, we risk losing nearly all coral reef systems by the end of the century​ (Nature)​.

Great Barrier Reef (© vlad61_61/stock.adobe.com)

The Great Barrier Reef, located in Queensland, Australia, is the world’s largest coral reef system, spanning an impressive 133,000 square miles. Visible even from space, this natural wonder comprises around 3,000 individual reefs. Most of this vast ecosystem is protected, ensuring the preservation of its incredible biodiversity. Over approximately 500 million years, tiny coral polyps have been building and renewing the reef, contributing to its immense size and complexity.

Forests

Forests, which stabilize our climate and are home to much of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, are being lost at an alarming rate. Each year, we lose forest areas equivalent to the size of Portugal. This deforestation contributes significantly to carbon emissions, exacerbates droughts, and leads to warmer, drier local climates. It also threatens the food security and livelihoods of millions of people​ (World Economic Forum)​.

Illegal logging for the paper industry and forest clearing for Palm oil plantation. TESSO NILO Plantation Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia (worldwildlife.org)

Deforestation in Sumatra, Indonesia, has been exacerbated by poor governance and widespread land grabbing, often ignoring tenurial rights. Large-scale land clearing for plantation development and natural forest wood harvesting significantly contribute to climate change through the release of forest and peat carbon. This extensive habitat destruction has severely impacted the populations of Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos, and orangutans, leading to significant declines in these species.

Species Extinction

The IPBES reports that one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. This includes critical pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are essential for food production. The loss of these species can disrupt entire ecosystems and affect human food security and health​ (Nature)​​ (ScienceDaily)​.

Image: https://www.oipa.org/international/ipbes-report-biodiversity-ecosystem/

Key Drivers of Biodiversity Loss

The primary drivers of biodiversity loss include:

  • Land and Sea Use Change: Urbanization, agriculture, and infrastructure development lead to habitat destruction.
  • Direct Exploitation: Overfishing, hunting, and logging reduce species populations.
  • Climate Change: Alters habitats and food availability, pushing species towards extinction.
  • Pollution: Chemicals, plastics, and other pollutants degrade habitats and harm wildlife.
  • Invasive Species: Non-native species outcompete, prey on, or bring diseases to native species.

The Dire State of Bird Populations

Birds have always fascinated me with their incredible diversity and adaptability. Birds soar gracefully over the high seas, dive to depths over half a kilometer underwater, nest on skyscrapers, and dig nests in remote rainforests, showcasing their presence in almost every corner of the earth. They are not only a joy to observe but also serve as key indicators of the planet’s health.

However, the latest State of the World’s Birds report by BirdLife International paints a deeply concerning picture of the natural world. This flagship report, published every four years, highlights that nearly half of the world’s bird species are now in decline. Only six percent of bird species have increasing populations, while one in eight species, or 1,409 species in total, are threatened with extinction. These alarming statistics underscore the severity of the biodiversity crisis we face​ (World Economic Forum)​.

State of the World’s Birds: 2024 Annual Update

The 2024 annual update of State of the World’s Birds highlights significant developments in bird science and conservation during 2023. Following the comprehensive 2022 report, ongoing research has provided further insights into the changing conservation status and trends of global bird populations, the threats driving their decline, and the conservation actions undertaken to improve their status. This update underscores the critical need for continued efforts and international cooperation to protect bird species worldwide.

https://datazone.birdlife.org/2024-annual-update

BirdLife International: Guardians of Bird Conservation

BirdLife International serves as the official Red List Authority for birds, tasked with assessing and documenting the global extinction risk of over 11,000 species for the IUCN Red List. Through transparent discussions on BirdLife’s Globally Threatened Bird Forums, the 2023 Red List update revealed significant changes: 11 species were uplisted to higher threat categories due to genuine status deteriorations, while only 4 species were downlisted to lower threat categories following improvements in their status. Additionally, several species were reclassified due to non-genuine reasons such as better knowledge or taxonomic revisions.

Rising Threat Levels

Several island endemic bird species now face higher threat levels due to invasive species. In Hawaii, population declines of over 60% between 2008 and 2018 have been experienced by honeycreepers Anianiau (Magumma parva) and Kauai Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis stejnegeri), prompting their status to be uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered. These declines are primarily due to avian malaria transmitted by introduced mosquitoes. Similarly, the Juan Fernandez Tit-tyrant (Anairetes fernandezianus), endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island off the coast of Chile, has been reclassified from Near Threatened to Endangered due to rapid population declines caused by invasive plants and predators.

Anianiau (Magumma parva) – By Anon, USGS – USGS Hawaiian Endangered Forest Birds, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7980770

The Impact of Forest Loss

Forest loss remains a critical driver of bird population declines worldwide. The Citron-throated Toucan (Ramphastos citreolaemus) was reclassified from Least Concern to Near Threatened due to ongoing deforestation in South America. In Southeast Asia, the Cinnamon-rumped Trogon (Harpactes orrhophaeus) was uplisted from Near Threatened to Vulnerable as a result of habitat loss and fragmentation in its lowland forest environment.

Success Stories and Hope

Despite these challenges, there are encouraging signs from species that have been downlisted, showcasing the positive impact of conservation efforts. Local community initiatives have successfully conserved habitats and reduced persecution, leading to the downlisting of three Asian stork species: the Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius), Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), and Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala). In Hawaii, the successful translocation of the Millerbird (Acrocephalus familiaris) from Nihoa to Laysan between 2011 and 2012 has established a self-sustaining population, resulting in the species being downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

Millerbird (Acrocephalus familiarise) – By R Kohley of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Pacific Region’s – The pose, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16593550

Future Outlook and Solutions

Without significant intervention, biodiversity loss is expected to continue. However, advanced models indicate that with increased conservation efforts and changes in production and consumption patterns, we can “bend the curve” of biodiversity loss. This involves:

  • Enhanced Conservation Efforts: Protecting and restoring critical habitats.
  • Sustainable Practices: Reducing waste, adopting sustainable agriculture, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Global Cooperation: Implementing international frameworks like the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which aims to protect and restore biodiversity through integrated and adequately funded national strategies​ (World Economic Forum)​.

Call to Action

The theme of the 2024 International Day for Biological Diversity, “Be Part of the Plan,” emphasizes the need for collective action. Governments, organizations, communities, and individuals are encouraged to engage in activities that support biodiversity conservation and the implementation of sustainable practices.

Theme of IDB 2024: “Be Part of the Plan”

The 2024 edition of IDB offers ample opportunities for engagement with a wide range of actors and stakeholders. The campaign proposed by the Secretariat of the CBD seeks to bring about a surge of awareness and increase commitment in the lead-up to the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, taking place from October 21 to November 1, 2024, in Cali, Colombia.

International Day for Biodiversity

The chosen theme, “Be Part of the Plan,” is a call to action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. Governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, non-governmental organizations, lawmakers, businesses, and individuals should actively showcase their support for the implementation of the Biodiversity Plan. Everyone plays a crucial role and can therefore “Be Part of the Plan.”

Official IDB 2024 Hashtags

  • Primary: #BiodiversityDay
  • Secondary: #PartOfThePlan #ForNature

Structure and Activities of IDB 2024

The celebration of IDB 2024 will be two-fold:

  1. Global Outreach Campaign: Supported by the CBD Secretariat, this campaign will include action-oriented messages and visual assets. We invite national institutions, partners, stakeholders, and the public to organize in-person events and participate in digital awareness-raising on social media.
  2. Advocacy and Engagement with Parties: This will showcase progress in the implementation of the Biodiversity Plan and advocate for swifter action by other Parties. It includes the preparation of adequately funded and integrated National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), which are the primary vehicles for national implementation of the Biodiversity Plan.

Activities include:

  • Digital Campaign: Catalyzed by the CBD Secretariat with support from partners, this campaign aims to increase awareness by harnessing social media platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter (X), Facebook, and YouTube.
  • Celebrations: In-person or online events and activities organized worldwide to mark IDB. The Secretariat invites organizers to submit their plans for sharing on the website.
  • Wave of Solidarity: Messages of support from around the world grace the CBD web pages. On IDB, social media platforms disseminate these messages across different time zones.

Taking Action to Protect Biodiversity

The International Day for Biological Diversity is an opportunity for individuals, communities, and nations to take action. Here are some ways to contribute to biodiversity conservation:

  1. Educate and Raise Awareness: Share information about biodiversity and its importance. Education is a powerful tool to inspire action.
  2. Support Conservation Efforts: Contribute to organizations working to protect habitats and endangered species. Volunteer, donate, or participate in citizen science projects.
  3. Adopt Sustainable Practices: Reduce your ecological footprint by recycling, reducing waste, conserving water, and using eco-friendly products.
  4. Advocate for Policy Changes: Support policies aimed at conserving biodiversity, protecting natural habitats, and combating climate change. Engage with local and national representatives to push for stronger environmental protections.
  5. Explore and Enjoy Nature: Spend time in nature to appreciate its beauty and diversity. Whether it’s a local park or a nature reserve, experiencing nature firsthand can foster a deeper connection and commitment to its preservation.

Conclusion Of International Day for Biodiversity

Biodiversity is crucial for the health of our planet and human well-being. The current rate of biodiversity loss poses significant risks to ecosystem services that we rely on, such as food, water, and air quality. Addressing this crisis requires a unified approach involving stronger conservation efforts, sustainable practices, and global cooperation. By taking action now, we can help ensure a healthier, more resilient planet for future generations.

BirdLife International’s role as the Red List Authority is crucial in highlighting the ongoing challenges and successes in bird conservation. While the rise in threatened species underscores the urgency of the biodiversity crisis, the successful downlisting of others demonstrates that targeted conservation actions can make a significant difference. Continued political will, financial commitment, and global cooperation are essential to safeguard the future of bird species worldwide.

The International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22 is a call to action. Biodiversity is the foundation of life on Earth, and its protection is essential for the health of our planet and future generations. By raising awareness, supporting conservation efforts, and making sustainable choices, we can all contribute to preserving the rich diversity of life that makes our world so vibrant and resilient. Let’s take this day to honor the beauty of biodiversity and commit to safeguarding it for the future.

For more information and resources, visit the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Wish you a happy and active International Day for Biodiversity!

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