All you need is... biodiversity
The International Year of Biodiversity should focus the attention of the world on the species and natural processes that keep us all alive, but that are overlooked all too often, Conservation International (CI) said.

Biodiversity conservation is essential for human survival and natural processes made possible by the diversity of life underpin the economies of all nations, but are often forgotten as politicians focus on narrow, short-term agendas.  With the United Nations declaration of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, the world is invited to participate in activities that will safeguard biodiversity and the services that it provides.

Claude Gascon, Executive Vice President for Programs and Science at CI said: “CI’s work around the world on the protection of ecosystems for the benefit of humanity deals with key issues ranging from protecting our supplies of food and fresh water to preventing the spread of diseases and reducing climate change – at the heart of all of these is biodiversity, it is what sustains us all.”

CI works with businesses and governments to ensure that sustainable practices are undertaken that preserve biodiversity, reduce climate change and provide the best opportunities for economic development. The organization also works on the ground with communities in environmentally important areas to help them to find ways to improve their lives and increase their income while protecting the environment.

CI’s work in the Philippines involve conservation initiatives in both terrestrial and marine environments.  The Philippines is a recognized global center of biodiversity. A total of 228 KBAs are identified for the country, including known habitats of at least 418 globally threatened; 440 endemic or restricted range species; and 67 globally significant congregations of mangroves, seaweeds, seagrasses, corals, echinoderms, mollusks, elasmobranchs, freshwater and reef fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Examples of why protecting biodiversity is essential to human survival include:

Food Security: Stocks of commercially important fish are crashing around the world, threatening both the livelihoods and the health of millions of people in the world’s poorest countries who depend on them. Declines or extinctions of insects and animals that pollinate plants can lead to severe consequences for crop yields, with profound impacts on economies and human health, as well as damaging countries’ abilities to be self-sufficient.

Health Security: Nature provides mechanisms to both reduce the spread of disease and to treat it. Numerous plants, animals and microorganisms produce compounds that have been used to develop drugs to deal with illnesses ranging from cancer to headaches to depression. Many animals eat disease-causing mosquitos and other insects.

Freshwater Security: Aquatic plants and microorganisms filter and clean water supplies, reducing waterborne pathogens.  Freshwater ecosystems also provide income and food to many communities.

Climate Security: The world’s natural biological systems are the only existing mechanism for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on the scale needed to effectively reduce climate change. The planet’s tropical forests and marine ecosystems are particularly important for this. Deforestation is also responsible for around 16 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions – as well as catastrophic biodiversity loss.

Options for the Future: Understanding the behavior and biology of the world’s biodiversity helps us to develop new technologies that can change our future – ranging from the enzymes in the digestives tracts of wood-eating crustaceans that may allow us to generate bio-fuels from waste products to new adhesives based on the properties of geckos feet to new means of controlling pain.

“Not since the dinosaurs were wiped out has the planet faced an extinction crisis like this,” said Dr. Claude Gascon, Executive Vice President of Conservation International. “But while the dinosaurs were unaware of their fate, humanity is knowingly watching this crisis unfurl. We have the resources and the need to address this crisis, but so far, humanity has failed to act. The International Year of Biodiversity should focus our minds and our efforts on ensuring that both we and future generations protect the natural world that protects us.”