Celebrating May 22, the International Day of Biological Diversity

Written by Emily Heber, Island Conservation

Our world is on the verge of a sixth mass extinction. Plants and animals are being driven to extinction at an unprecedented rate and it’s because of our actions—agricultural practices, pollution, climate changes, and the introduction of invasive species. Although the reality of these threats seem grim, by focusing conservation efforts where they will have the biggest impact and investing in innovative technology we can make a difference and preserve biodiversity.

Image courtesy from Island Conservation

A report released this month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) announced that in the coming decades one million species will be at risk of extinction due to human activities. This dire warning highlights the need for immediate action to try and save species from the brink of extinction.

The time to act is now.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will host an online forum on biosafety and the future of the Cartagena Protocol – which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms – on July 8-19. Online discussions will be followed by a workshop on August 25 on the same topic. Both initiatives will feed the first round of negotiations of the framework – the Open-Ended Working Group meetings to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 27-31.

This year, the Global Forum on Bioethics in Research will be held in Singapore on November 12-13. The Forum will look at gene editing and gene drive applications for human health. There is a call for proposals for sessions on ethics and on governance & policy, as well as calls for applicants to attend the conference - some financial support is available.

Humans are killing species in greater rates than ever before, says the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Three years in the making, IPBES’ 1800-page study states that one million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction due to human activities. The message is clear: we need to change the way humanity interacts with the environment across all of its activities to avoid ecological disaster. Although acknowledging that there are no simple “one-size fits all” answers, the report suggests that moving from the current paradigm economic growth - where GDP is the key indicator – to a holistic alternative that encompasses quality of life and takes into account externalities and the long-term impacts of decisions may be a start.

Image courtesy of Island Conservation

Invasive species pose an ever-growing risk to island communities and species, as they damage fragile ecosystems and bring new diseases. While efforts to control these species are ongoing, current methods have shown important limitations, from cost to feasibility and efficacy, leaving hundreds of thousands of islands under threat. All innovations to reduce the impact of invasive species on islands must be evaluated, including genetic modification, stated Karen Poiani, CEO of Island Conservation, in The Sidney Morning Herald.