What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the shortened form of two words “biological” and “diversity. In short, bio means life, and diversity means a range of different things – and simply biodiversity means “A Diversity of Life”. It is a combination of all lives that are found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms) and the communities they form and the habitats in which they live. The biodiversity we experience today is the result of billions of years’ evolution shaped by natural processes, and the influence of human beings and their web of life. Basically, biodiversity provides a large number of goods and services that sustain all lives on earth, since biological resources are the pillars in which civilizations are built upon. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the formal definition of biodiversity is: “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter-alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.
The value of biodiversity
Biodiversity is the foundation for sustainable development. Throughout history healthy ecosystems have been resilient to adapt to gradual environmental change; but the varied natural services are impossible to replace, because ecosystems continuously provide essential services by securing earth’s variety of life and contribute to human well-being. The loss of biodiversity threatens food supplies, sources of wood, medicines, energy, and opportunities for recreation, tourism, and other essential ecological functions. Biodiversity plays a major role in agriculture, forestry, wildlife and also urban development. Therefore, conservation of biodiversity is necessary to challenge population and economic growths that causes habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, introduction of invasive species, environmental pollution, soil erosion, over-exploitation of resources over-harvesting, and nutrient loss in soils. There is no clear blueprint for effective protection that could be implemented immediately for protection of biodiversity, but people should understand that a focus on economic arguments will not help to save the natural resources or ecosystems. The transition to sustainability is not easy, but it is central to securing a future for biodiversity.
Challenges for Biodiversity Conservation
Tropical forests disappear every minute. Many species of animals and plants are at risk of extinction at alarming rates mainly because of the destruction of natural environments. These losses, and increasing numbers of endangered animals have generated a major concern for the conservation of ecosystems. The current decline in biodiversity is largely due to the results of certain human activities. It is a serious threat to human development, therefore, taking effective, urgent and decisive action to halt the loss of biodiversity, and protect biodiversity have to be in our self-interest. To ensure this, pressures on biodiversity have to be reduced, ecosystems have to be restored, biological resources have to be sustainably used, adequate financial benefits should be provided, capacities should be enhanced, and proper policies have to be implemented effectively. Problems related to biodiversity and ecosystem services include diverse values, complexity, uncertainty and the involvement of many sectors. Without an integrated cross-sectoral and multi-level policy approach, action needed to address biodiversity issues will be hindered. Therefore, to effectively promote ecosystem conservation, an integrated management of natural resources is needed through the cooperation of many different actors.
History of the International Day for Biological Diversity
In 1993, the 29th of December was selected as the International Day for Biological Diversity to educate the world and increase understanding and awareness on the importance of Biodiversity and its related issues. As holidays coincide with this time of the year, this date was changed by the UN General Assembly, and the International Day for Biodiversity (IDB) was changed to the 22nd of May in 2000. Biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to the present and future generations. Therefore, each year a theme is selected to educate the world on different topics under the field of biodiversity from water, marine, forest and sustainable development concerns.
Theme for International Day for Biological Diversity in 2018
The International Day for Biodiversity theme for 2018 is “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity”. The theme has been selected 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.
Protecting biodiversity in Sri Lanka to serve humanity
Sri Lanka which is ranked as a global biodiversity hot spot exhibits a wide array of ecosystems with an exceptional degree of endemism and a diversity of species considered to be the richest per unit area in the Asian region. It has several distinct climatic zones comprising of forests with different characteristics, rich marine and coastline ecosystems, wildlife, and wetlands associated with 103 major rivers and over 10,000 irrigation tanks. The Government of Sri Lanka has enacted various policies and laws aimed at protecting natural resources with an understanding of its importance for sustained growth and poverty reduction. Explicitly, Sri Lanka was the first country in Asia to prepare a National Environmental Action Plan in 1992. Then, the National Forestry Policy in 1995; National Air Quality Management Policy in 2000; National Environment Policy in 2003; National Watershed Management Policy in 2004; National Policy on Wetlands in 2005; National Policy on Elephant Conservation in 2006; and the National Policy on Solid Waste Management. Simultaneously a number of natural resources management strategies were developed, such as the Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity of 1994; Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan of 1998, and addendum of 2006; Protected Area Gap Analysis of 2006; Haritha Lanka of 2009; and Drivers of Deforestation and Forest Degradation of Sri Lanka of 2015; and the National Environmental Conservation Programme in 2015.
Despite conservation efforts and legal protection; deforestation, forest degradation and biodiversity loss continue. The Human-Elephant Conflict is a noteworthy issue in the context of Sri Lanka’ s development because one third of the wild elephant population are found outside the protected areas as these protected areas are insufficient in size and quality to sustain the country’s elephant population. With the accelerating development activities in the country leading to fragmentation of habitats, innovative landscape management approaches are needed to address the Human-Elephant Conflict.
Sri Lanka which is ranked as a global biodiversity hot spot exhibits a wide array of ecosystems with an exceptional degree of endemism and a diversity of species
The development framework of the Government of Sri Lanka has committed to a path of sustainable development and has identified the country’s biodiversity as part of its natural heritage and a high conservation priority. The Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) supports the Country Partnership Strategy’s strategic themes on improved living standards and social inclusion, and improved resilience to climate and disaster risks. Encouraging efforts to protect ecosystems and the species they contain is a major concern of ESCAMP. To accomplish this goal, the project implementing agencies – the Forest Department and the Department of Wildlife Conservation are guiding the conservation process of the protected areas. They are also working to increase public awareness on the factors that contribute to loss of biodiversity by developing programmes where individuals and communities can discover ways to reduce their impacts on the environment.
Through its project components, ESCAMP directly responds to Sri Lanka’s development priorities through improvement of natural resources management, and protecting and improving the natural resource base on which rural communities depend. It contributes to key national strategies and action plans; conservation of wildlife resources; improve habitat in protected areas by restoration of water bodies, protection of water resources, removal of invasive species,increasing forest cover, and Assisting Natural Regeneration (ANR) to encourage natural establishment of forest cover;developing mechanisms for human-elephant co-existence; institutional strengthening; and improving the revenue generating capability of wildlife and forest resources by providing economical values such as eco-tourism and other employment opportunities. The project also contributes to the higher level objective of long-term environmental sustainability and inclusiveness of growth and development in and around ecologically sensitive areas in Sri Lanka. ESCAMP contributes in the protection and conservation of biodiversity in Sri Lanka and safeguard vulnerable ecosystems; because Sri Lanka’s biodiversity and natural resources endowments are important assets for future sustainable development.
ESCAMP wishes every Sri Lankan celebrates the diversity of our natural world not just on International Day for Biological Diversity but throughout the year!