Looking forward to International Year of Biodiversity in 2010
Flowerbed along walkway. Photo: © Corel Corporation, 1994. -- Click to enlarge
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth. It encompasses the wide array of ecosystems, ecological processes, species and genes that contribute to human health and well-being.
The United Nations declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity to bring greater attention to the importance of biodiversity and efforts to reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment -- called for by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2000 to assess the consequences of ecosystem change -- emphasized that humanity's future depends on healthy functioning ecosystems.
Have you ever considered that the water we drink from our taps may have been purified by a wetland or forest? Did you know that much of the food we eat depends on the services provided by a diversity of pollinating insects and animals?
Biodiversity is essential to human existence. It plays a significant role in natural processes such as the purification of water and air, pollination, the absorption of carbon by trees and other plant life, renewed oxygen supply, natural pest control, flood and erosion control, and the absorption and detoxification of human and industrial wastes.
Ecosystem processes also create economic benefits. They absorb costs that would otherwise be borne by taxpayers to replace these processes in the absence of healthy, functioning ecosystems.
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
Yellow Swallowtail pollinating a geranium. Photo: © Corel Corporation, 1994. -- Click to enlarge
Recognizing the importance of biodiversity, in 1992 Canada became the first industrialised country to ratify the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty that provides for action in 3 areas:
- conservation of biological diversity
- sustainable use of biodiversity,
- fair and equitable sharing of the benefits that result from the genetic components of biological diversity (such as the use of "raw materials" for scientific research and commercial products like pharmaceutical drugs).
The Convention on Biological Diversity was negotiated in response to the world-wide loss of biodiversity, including trees, plants, insects, animals, aquatic life and natural organisms. Biodiversity loss is one of the most significant threats facing the global environment. There are presently 190 countries that are members of the Convention.
Canada's experts have been instrumental in revising guidelines for national biodiversity assessments, participating in expert forums on key policy issues and assisting developing countries to increase their capacity to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources in a sustainable manner.
Canada's Biodiversity Strategy
Wildflower garden. Photo: © Corel Corporation, 1994. -- Click to enlarge
In response to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and as part of Canada's commitment to take action to preserve genetic diversity and the integrity of ecosystems, the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy was created.
The strategy was developed in collaboration with federal, provincial and territorial governments. It presents a vision for Canada as:
"A society that lives and develops as a part of nature, values the diversity of life, takes no more than can be replenished and leaves to future generations a nurturing and dynamic world, rich in its biodiversity."1
To achieve this vision, the strategy supports actions on a wide range of issues identified in the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Canada takes an ecosystem approach, considering 100 per cent of the landscape/seascape, and including the role humans play within ecosystems. The ecosystem approach calls for integrated management of land, water and living resources, and a balance between conservation and resource use.
The strategy places a high priority on establishing protected areas. Canada is a leader in this area, committing $225 million in 2007 to acquire and conserve over 200,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive lands across southern Canada. This initiative, known as the Natural Areas Conservation Program, is a partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada that targets key natural areas as conservation priorities including alpine meadows, grasslands, woodlands, wetlands and shorelines.
Canada is also participating in a global effort to conserve plant biodiversity and to halt its loss. Canada's botanical gardens are playing a leading role through their participation in Conserving Plant Diversity: the 2010 Challenge for Canadian Botanical Gardens (PDF format, 2.68MB).
Conserving plant diversity is also a priority for agriculture. Did you know that although about 7,000 plant species have been cultivated and collected for food by humans since agriculture began about 12,000 years ago, today 90 per cent of our food is supplied by just 15 plant species and 8 animal species? The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and the Convention on Biological Diversity give special attention to agricultural areas and forested areas, including the diversity of plants within them.
Boreal and temperate forests cover nearly half of Canada's landmass, and provide habitat for approximately two-thirds of Canada's over 70,000 known wild species of plants, animals and micro-organisms. The Convention on Biological Diversity addresses forest biodiversity issues through a work program focussed on knowledge, assessment, and monitoring necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Convention Office is coordinating Canada's efforts in anticipation of International Year of Biodiversity in 2010 and is interested in your ideas and actions! So whether you're starting your own community garden or changing the way you buy groceries, submit your ideas here.
To learn more about how you can celebrate and protect biodiversity, visit the Biodiversity Convention Office's Citizen Action page.
1 Canadian Biodiversity Strategy: Canada's Response to the Convention on Biological Diversity (1995).
- Date Modified:
- The UN has declared 2010 as International Year of Biodiversity.
- When asked to explain the meaning of "biodiversity", only one in five Canadians (19 per cent) correctly identify it as the "variety of life on earth." Nearly half (48 per cent) say that they do not know, and a quarter (27 per cent) come up with the wrong answer.
- About 7,000 plant species have been cultivated and collected for food by humans since agriculture began about 12,000 years ago. However, today only about 15 plant species and 8 animal species supply 90 per cent of our food.
- Canada's boreal and temperate forests cover nearly half of its landmass, and provide habitat for approximately two-thirds of Canada's 70,000+ known wild species of plants, animals and micro-organisms.
- Much of the food we eat depends on the services provided by a diversity of pollinating insects and animals.