Op-Ed: Loss of biodiversity may be reaching 'point of no return'

Posted May 10, 2010 by Igor I. Solar
The lack of effective measures to prevent the loss of biodiversity may be leading the world to a point where the damage may be irreversible. More meetings to evaluate the situation are planned for 2010. Effective actions are required.
The world
The world
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international legally binding treaty was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then, further meetings and agreements have ensued. Among them, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety adopted in January 2000.
In April 2002, the parties of the UN CBD adopted the recommendations of the Gran Canaria Declaration, calling for a Global Plant Conservation Strategy, and adopted a sixteen point plan aiming to a significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national levels around the world by 2010. At this meeting it was agreed that this should contribute to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of life on Earth. This target was subsequently endorsed by the participants to the World Summit, a meeting on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and by the United Nations General Assembly.
Hopetoun Falls  Beech Forest  near Otway National Park  Victoria  Australia.
Hopetoun Falls, Beech Forest, near Otway National Park, Victoria, Australia.
The UN declared 2010 the "International Year of Biodiversity". Several additional international meetings in this regard are planned for the second half of the year including one at the UN General Assembly in September and a conference in October in Japan.
The preceding enumeration of gatherings of government leaders, policymakers and scientists is just a brief summary of the major meetings with the intention of halting the rate of biodiversity loss in the planet, helping to assist in the economic development of all nations and enhancing the hopes and opportunities for the poorer countries and the next generations. Many other lesser meetings take place around the world to analyze the situation, develop initiatives and bring new proposals to the major international conferences.
However, according to the third report on global biodiversity issued today by UNEP "governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002: biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems". Among the areas of greatest concern are the Amazon rain forest and coral reefs.
Coral reefs in Micronesia.
Coral reefs in Micronesia.
David Burdick - NOAA
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, in his introductory message of the report states:
The arrogance of humanity is that somehow we imagine we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of six billion heading to over nine billion people by 2050.
Stuart Butchart, one of the report's lead authors says:
"Our data shows that 2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet."
Several human activities, which in many cases are encouraged and supported by governments, are among the leading factors conducing to loss of biodiversity. Among them are the clearing of tropical forests in favour of crops and pastures, and potentially for bio-fuel production; the introduction of invasive alien species, the construction of dams affecting freshwater biodiversity, and overfishing which continues to damage marine ecosystems and cause the collapse of fish populations and the failure of traditional fisheries. Some of these actions result in water pollution, erosion, desertification and climate change, and most of them lead to habitat alteration and fragmentation, the extinction of plant and animal species and a severe reduction in biodiversity.
Bachalpsee flowers in the morning  Bernese Alps. Mountainous areas are among the most pristine envir...
Bachalpsee flowers in the morning, Bernese Alps. Mountainous areas are among the most pristine environments on Earth
At the time when the United Nations has acknowledged the failure of so many international meetings and futile resolutions, it must be recognized that the time has come for many countries that attend these meetings, become parties of conventions, and ratify their membership, to implement effective measures to reverse the situation denounced by this report. It also becomes very important that the United States reconsiders its choice of not to being a party to both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Having countries such as Rwanda and Malawi be parties of the Convention and the Protocol is highly meritorious, however the impact of these nations on the intentions and need to preserve biodiversity may be minor compared with the potential impact of the main industrial and economic powers of the planet.
Interested in reading UNEP’s Global Biodiversity Outlook-3 in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Arabic? Click here.