Biodiversity, the theme for this year’s World Environment Day is a global concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent happenings around the world, from forest fires in the United States, Brazil and Australia to locust infestations across Africa and India, earthquakes and cyclones hitting in many parts of the world, and the worst of all an unprecedented global crisis in the form of COVID pandemic, demonstrate the interdependence of man, other species and the environment in which we live.
Biodiversity denotes the unlimited species and variety of life, both plants and animals on planet Earth. Biodiversity maintains the balance of the ecosystem through recycling and storage of nutrients, combating pollution, stabilizing climate, protecting water resources, forming and protecting soil, and maintaining eco-balance. This biodiversity gives us food for the human population and animals, medicines and pharmaceuticals, ornamental plants, wood products, breeding stock, and diversity of species, ecosystems, and genes.
Each species, no matter how big or small, has an important role to play in the ecosystem. Various plant and animal species depend on each other for what each offer and these diverse species ensure natural sustainability for all life forms. Healthy and solid biodiversity is necessary to recover from a variety of disasters.
Today we are facing multiple challenges and natural calamities caused by loss of biodiversity and the whole humanity is under lockdown to fight deadly Corona virus. We are made to reflect uponour growing population and urbanization which resulted in indiscriminate felling of trees and clearing of forests and wild life. The mass urbanization, especially over the last few decades, has led to over-exploitation of nature and environment, thereby causing pollution and climate change. The ill effects of all these hazards coming together caused a heavy loss of biodiversity in all parts of world.
Today, one million species are facing extinction due to man-made perils on earth. The reduced biodiversity leads to reduced ecosystem services and eventually poses an immediate danger for food security for humankind.
We recently witnessed the killing of a pregnant elephant due to an insensitive human act in Kerala. Elephant is an endangered species. More than 50 per cent of pachyderms have ambushed in Africa and Asia in the past three decades. Reportedly, there are only about 40,000 elephants left in Asia, out of which about 25,000 exist in India. Despite strict laws against killing of elephants, and our failure to protect them and control their hunting and poaching, it is feared that we might lose the species by 2040.
According to a recent report (May 2020) from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES, UN), nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20 per cent since 1900. More than 40 per cent of amphibian species, almost 33 per cent of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10 per cent being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9 per cent of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.
We’re have lost our essential diversity in food crops too. Today we rely on a handful of grain crops and plants that have been refined and bred over hundreds of years in the past. We have lost most of the indigenous varieties which were not only disease and pest resistant, but also held higher nutritive value.Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are thus, shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed.
This loss of biodiversity is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world. It is not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well. The United Nations had designated 2011–2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.However, despite progress to conserve nature and implement policies, global goals for conserving using nature sustainably and achieving sustainabilityhave not been met and current trajectories are not sufficient.
World Environment Day is a call for action for global community to recognize the seriousness of the issues caused by loss of biodiversity. To protect and conserve all life forms, at all places on the planet is imperative for human survival, more so today when we’ve reached the threshold of destruction and human species itself is endangered.Transformative changes are required across economic, social, political and technological landscapes to protect nature and its bountiful diversitythat makes our planet beautiful and life-supporting.