How many of us have heard about the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity? Back in 2010, at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, governments agreed to a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The goal of Decade on Biodiversity is to support the implementation of the Plan and to promote its overall vision of living in harmony with nature. The actual Plan is aimed at implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)--which has three objectives: The conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
The point is, biodiversity (the variety of life on earth and its interdependence) matters. Deeply. Desperately. Urgently. Biodiversity is literally life, it is the health of the planet.
Diversity makes living things adaptable--and we need all the adaptability we can get, with climate changes, fragmented ecosystems, habitat loss and destruction, diseases, and a host of other ills. But biodiversity is declining globally at an alarming rate. With loss of biodiversity comes loss of genetic diversity, which means fewer kinds in a group that can handle the changes and still thrive--so we are basically diminishing chances at adaptability.
As biodiversity disappears, we are actively weakening our resiliency (not to forget our food security).
What to do?
Safeguarding Space for Nature and securing our future: developing a post-2020 strategy is a symposium (sponsored by the Zoological Society of London and other groups) that is taking place on February 27th-28th in London where international scientists,conservationists, policymakers, community leaders, business people, students and so on, are coming together to discuss what happens beyond the CBD’s targets of protecting at least 17% of land and freshwater and 10% of our oceans by 2020.
Over the next few years, governments will be reviewing the current Strategic Plan and considering a new strategy to meet the vision of conserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem services and a healthy planet for all by 2050, as part of the wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Because wildlife populations are declining so rapidly, there are proposals from groups like Nature Needs Half to make 50% of the planet a nature reserve.
Some scientists are suggesting integrated patterns of wildlife areas and linkages so that wildlife can move throughout these and preserve genetic diversity between populations.
Since world population will continue to grow, and since most of us will continue to live in cities, greening our urban areas, making them more friendly to nature is something that we can all do (more below). But scientists are asking us to look at the peripheries of our cities, where there are opportunities to enhance biodiversity. There are especially cities that are hotspots of biodiversity and need even more focus. From the Atlas of the End of the World, “It is important to note here that although our mapping….is based on particular endangered species, 'biodiversity' does not only mean individual animals and plants; it means the complex web of life which creates a healthy and resilient ecosystem, without which, no city can survive. Cities are generally preoccupied with their commercial and cultural centers whereas----they now need to look to their peripheries, for it is there that nature and culture are at loggerheads and it is there that the long-term environmental health of a city will be largely determined.”
So how do we create and support more biodiversity at home, in our neighbourhoods, cities, provinces and country? First off, educate ourselves. Who is doing what?
Canada has a biodiversity strategy!
Canada has set Biodiversity Goals and Targets for 2020. Our national goals and targets support the global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 adopted by Canada and other Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010.
The primary responsibility for conserving biodiversity and ensuring the sustainable use of biological resources is shared among provincial, territorial and federal governments. The Strategy recognizes that governments cannot act alone to ensure the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources and therefore, invites and encourages all Canadians to take action in support of the Strategy. Visit biodivcanada.ca to find out more.
Ontario: Yes, we have one too.
Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy, 2011 is the guiding framework for coordinating the conservation of our province’s rich variety of life and ecosystems. Download Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy 2011 (PDF)
Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy includes commitments to report on the State of Ontario’s Biodiversity and on progress in achieving Ontario's 15 Biodiversity Targets every 5 years.
The Ontario Biodiversity Council was created in 2005 in fulfillment of an action in the province’s first Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy. Council members include conservation and environmental groups, industry associations, Indigenous organizations, academia and government agencies.
Cities are developing their own biodiversity strategies. For example, Toronto’s Biodiversity Strategy has been in the works officially since September, 2015. The City-lead draft will go before the City's Parks and Environment Committee (a Standing Committee that reports to Council) in May of 2018. The Strategy pulls together under one umbrella, several different initiatives including green infrastructure like green roofs, and is a high level strategy, bringing together a more concerted effort, and a preliminary list. The list's areas of focus include:
-Function (example pollination).
-Taxa (for example, the Bees of Toronto publication (distributed free of charge through the public library) were very popular with the Toronto residents.
-Species (different scales).
Calgary has a 10-year biodiversity strategic plan since 2015 as well as a biodiversity policy. The plan is based on principles for protection, development and management of Calgary parks and ecosystems in support of biodiversity, “providing a framework for the City to foster more resilient, biologically diverse open space and neighbourhoods.
Now it’s Hamilton’s turn, right? There are a number of groups working on initiatives, that have all the elements of a great biodiversity strategy. Here's one:
Ontario Plant Restoration Alliance (OPRA) is relatively new group with a “spotlight on native plants.” OPRA helps to facilitate the restoration of local flora through network of growers, researchers, land owners, seed conservationists and policy experts. They refer to this work as a Seed Strategy. OPRA talks about the benefits of a seed conservation strategy and exploring a Hamilton Seed strategy.
Why are seeds so important, you ask? Again, plant genetic diversity is disappearing, and we need to safeguard the future by conserving good quality seeds. We might be able to get lots of people to do seed collection, but what about seed processing, tracking, sourcing, etc because what seeds need is infrastructure in place, that is, we need to think about the needs of nurseries.
We can all do our part by learning more about the issues, by finding out what we can do to protect what is precious, by planting habitat and by encouraging others to do so too.
Safe seeds: http://fgca.net/save-ontarios-seed/
In your own Yard
In gardening, be intentional about planting for nature. Remember that most insects are specialists, not generalists so in creating habitat, it is valuable to think in terms of specific needs of say, monarchs, or ground-nesting bees (soil needs).. For ideas on gardening for biodiversity, check out Landscaping with a Purpose – What’s Diversity Got To Do with It? an article by Dr. Randi Eckel. She writes, "We must have plant diversity to feed a diversity of creatures, but we also need structural diversity. Places for butterflies to hide at night and moths to hide during the day. Places for all sorts of creatures to shelter from weather, both summer and winter. Places for cover and nesting sites. We need diversity of form: trees, shrubs, evergreens, and groundcovers; leaf litter, brush piles, rock piles and fallen logs. We also need water – streams, ponds, bird baths, and mud puddles. Incorporating all these elements into the landscape does not require a large space, but it does require creative vision."