Biodiversity is life. It is the variety of all life on Earth including all species of animals and plants, and the natural systems that support them. Biodiversity matters. It is hugely important, not just for its own sake but also because it underpins the vital benefits we get from the natural environment, because it contributes to our economy, our health and wellbeing, and because it enriches our lives.

 

But human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity when everyone is encouraged to take direct action to reduce the constant loss of biological diversity worldwide.

"Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%. These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development, as recognised by the UN Millennium Development Goals." This statement was made by United Nations Environment Programme's Chief Scientist Prof Joseph Alcamo.

The pressures on biodiversity have continued to increase. Dr. Stuart Butchart, from BirdLife International - the lead author on this report in Science, said that "Although nations have put in place some significant policies to slow biodiversity declines, these have been woefully inadequate, and the gap between the pressures on biodiversity and the responses is getting ever wider".

The greatest threat to world-wide biodiversity is habitat loss - unsustainable farming and unsustainable forestry, pollution, and increasingly - climate change. But of course its man's impact that is the reason for these effects. And it couldn't be better illustrated by the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico which threatens the biodiversity of several Gulf States

Biodiversity, the great variety of living organisms, is the basis of more economic activity than most people recognize.  Our natural world provides not only the raw material but the inspiration for a host of goods and services that contribute to humanity's basic needs and general well-being. Biodiversity is the natural capital which has underpinned the development of all human societies. Aided by new technology that lets us peer into the organisation and operation of the natural world, scientists and engineers are continuing to draw inspiration and materials from biodiversity.   Biodiversity is the critical resource on which we all depend:

Nature has evolved some highly efficient ways of moving objects and information around.  Human designers can learn from this.  Japan's Shinkansen trains are modeled on the aerodynamic shape of the common kingfisher.

Studies show people who live near green space are healthier, happier and cope better with life's challenges than people with less access to nature.  As well as providing us with medicines - about half of synthetic drugs have a natural origin - biodiversity boosts our well-being.

Organisms in nature need energy just like human societies.  Plants have been harvesting solar power for about 2.5 billion years longer than humans.  By copying the microscopic bumps on plant leaves, designers have significantly improved the performance of solar panels. 

African termites build structures that regulate the temperature of the nest below.  Using the same principles architects have designed buildings that save a fortune in air conditioning costs.  For any given environmental challenge some creature has usually already developed a solution. 

Whether it is barley developed by selective breeding over thousands of years, berries collected on an outing in the woods, or beefsteak, biodiversity provides everything we eat.  In addition biodiversity can provide answers to some of the challenges facing agriculture, such as pest control without resorting to toxic chemicals.

Huge pressures remain on Bermuda's remaining open spaces and therefore its biodiversity. A growing population naturally puts demands on the land for housing. Development needs to be managed wisely. Without our natural environment, our greatest asset, tourism will go into further decline. The natural charm of Bermuda to international business will be diminished, as will our own spiritual well-being.