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'Our solutions are in nature', let's come together this International Biodiversity Day!

Ahmed Aiham
22 May 2020, MVT 20:31
The foreground cover of the Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). PHOTO: MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT
Ahmed Aiham
22 May 2020, MVT 20:31

Kicking off with a special focus on this year's theme 'Our solutions are in nature', humanity digs its roots to commemorate the United Nations (UN) declared 'International Day for Biological Diversity' on May 22, this Friday.

"As the global community is called to re-examine its relationship to the natural world, one thing is certain: despite all our technological advances we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our health, water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy", said the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB).

"The slogan 'Our solutions are in nature' emphasises hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature".

Intrinsically linked to nature, environment and the human civilization, biological diversity is often understood as the variety of plant and animal life, not limited to genetical differences within species, between species, and of ecosystems calling Earth it's home.

Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) tweet on occasion of the International Biodiversity Day. VIDEO: IPBES / TWITTER

Climate Change, biodiversity and health

As per the UN, the combined effects of climate change and man-made changes on nature, pose a potentially fatal outcome for the planet's biodiversity.

"Mother Earth is clearly urging a call to action. Nature is suffering. Australian fires, heat records and the worst locust invasion in Kenya. Now we face COVID -19, a worldwide health pandemic link to the health of our ecosystem", said UN Secretary General António Guterres.

"Crimes that disrupt biodiversity, such as deforestation, land-use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, can increase contact and the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) like COVID-19".

According to UN Environment Programme (UNEP), of all new infectious disease that emerges in humans every four months, 75 percent of these diseases come from animals.

Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity tweets on occasion of the International Biodiversity Day. VIDEO: UN BIODIVERSITY / TWITTER

"Biodiversity loss is a loss for humanity"

In line with the theme, this year's awareness efforts covered three essential topics during the week building up to the day of International Biodiversity Day's observance.

- Science and traditional knowledge: May 18

In order to raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity, the topic focuses on increasing the understanding of biodiversity, drivers of biodiversity loss and pathways for a sustainable future.

- Awareness: May 19 - 21

Coinciding with World Bee Day and the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, the three days focused on raising awareness on the links between biodiversity, health, agriculture, food and feed, food security, people and culture, and how to conserve it.

- Call to action: May 22

On the day of observance, individuals around the globe are urged to call for ecosystem-based solutions to address biodiversity loss, climate change and land degradation simultaneously.

Furthermore, the convention calls to mainstream biodiversity in various economic sectors of the world.

"2020 is a year of reflection, opportunity and solutions. It is the year where, more than ever, the world can signal a strong will for a global framework that will “bend the curve” on biodiversity loss for the benefit of humans and all life on Earth", said the Convention.

The year 2020 also marks the end of the decade long 'Strategic Plan on Biodiversity (2011-2020), which primarily focused on five goals for its 20 'Aichi Biodiversity Targets';

Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society

Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use

Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity

Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

Hailed as an epitome of a luxury island destination, just how important is biodiversity to the Maldives?

According to findings publicized on the '2015 Fifth National Report of the Maldives to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity', it is estimated that biodiversity-based sectors contribute to 98 percent of exports, 89 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 71 percent of national employment, 62 percent of foreign exchange and 49 percent of public revenue.

Biodiversity is a significant contributor to government revenue from economic sectors that are reliant on biodiversity.

Just how diverse is Maldives?

Despite relatively poor and infertile soils, Maldives has a diverse vegetation cover. The flora of the country consists of 583 vascular plants. Meanwhile, Maldivian mangrove ecosystems consist of 14 species belonging to 10 genera and have 37 species of fungi associated with them.

Although not known for abundant wildlife, Maldives is particularly rich in species of spiders. Some 130 insect species such as scorpions, centipedes, rhinoceros beetle and paper wasps have been identified in the country. Native mammals endemic to Maldives include two subspecies of fruit bats.

Moreover, 167 species of birds have been recorded, comprising of seabirds, shorebirds and terrestrial birds.

The report further noted that coastal and marine ecosystems in Maldives, particularly its coral reef ecosystems are “globally significant".

Forming the seventh-largest reef system in the world, Maldivian coral reefs represent as much as 3.14 percent of the world’s reef area. There are 2,041 distinct coral reefs across the 26 natural atolls of the Maldives.

"The marine biological diversity is outstandingly rich, especially within the coral reefs, making them one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems", the report read.

At the time of its publication in 2015, the study found that Maldives recorded 258 species of hermatypic corals and 36 species of sponges. A total of 285 species of algae, five species of seagrass, 400 species of molluscs, 350 species of crustaceans and 80 species of echinoderms were documented.

While over a 1000 species of fish have been recorded, nearly 40 species of sharks and 16 species of skates were also confirmed to inhabit the Maldivian waters.

There are five species of marine turtles in the Maldives: the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the olive ridley, the leatherback turtle and the loggerhead turtle. Maldives is reported to be one of the most important feeding grounds for hawksbill turtles in the Indian Ocean.

The atolls are also home to globally significant populations of whale shark, manta rays, reef sharks and more than 20 species of whales and dolphins, making for tourist attractions all year-round.

Further, coral reef ecosystems play a key role in enabling human settlements in the Maldives through climate regulation, storm buffering, and coastal protection, and functions as natural sea defences for islands vulnerable to climate change.

The report highlighted the importance of biodiversity and described Maldives as "highly dependent on biodiversity for employment, food security, quality of life, aesthetics, recreation, and sustainable livelihoods".

Maldives became a party to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity since its formulation in 1992.