The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), or World Biodiversity Day, was established by the United Nations in 1993 to celebrate biodiversity and raise awareness for biodiversity issues. It is held on May 22, the day the United Nations adopted the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992. The Convention commits its 196 signatory parties to maintaining biodiversity, which is essential to human wellbeing. We depend on ecosystems for our food, and these in turn depend on the intricate interdependence of countless species.

This year’s World Biodiversity Day theme, “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development,” embraced the Convention's overall philosophy and explored the vital role biodiversity plays in ensuring a sustainable future. The theme was designed to highlight and advance the United Nations' post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which will build on the Millennium Development Goals. Previous themes have included Biodiversity and Climate Change (2007), Marine Biodiversity (2012), and Island Biodiversity (2014).

The most common definition of sustainable development, provided by the Brundtland Report, is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In other words, natural resources are finite, and must be exploited carefully with a view to the future.

Biodiversity plays a critical role in sustainable development because of the various ecosystem goods and services it provides us with. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, more than 1.3 billion people depend on biodiversity and on basic ecosystem goods and services for their livelihoods. Biodiversity assists in four major categories: provisional services, such as food and water; regulatory services like erosion control; cultural services, such as spiritual and religious benefits; and supporting services, i.e. nutrient cycling. Biodiversity allows these services to be supplied in a sustainable manner. However, due to overexploitation, climate change, and other disruptions, Earth’s biodiversity is diminishing, halting the production of some of these ecosystem goods and services.

Every year, May 22 provides an opportunity for communities to advocate for the protection of our biodiversity. This year was no exception, as countless organizations around the world organized events and activities for the public. SavingSpecies teamed up with Stuart Primm, a world-renowned biologist and ecologist, to air the documentary Call of Life, which explores the threat of a sixth mass extinction due to a rapid loss of biodiversity. In Cape Town, South Africa, four organizations held a conference, “Africa Rising: Mobilizing Biodiversity Data for Sustainable Development,” to discuss how sharing biodiversity data can make it easier for nations to exploit their resources sustainably. And Environment Online (ENO), a global network for sustainable development, took a particularly proactive approach: it organized a worldwide tree planting event on May 22 to advance its goal of planting 100 million trees by 2017.


Author: Sharmen Hettipola