International Year of Biodiversity - investing in nature, improving lives

11 January 2010 | International news release

The International Year of Biodiversity has been launched at a ceremony in Berlin with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning that the world will face "enormous costs" if no action is taken to tackle climate change and to secure biodiversity.

The world is facing a global extinction crisis which threatens not only the natural environment but mankind itself. All life on earth depends upon species, ecosystems and natural resources. IUCN says this must be safeguarded before it’s too late, as we are destroying the very natural infrastructure that supports us, at an ever increasing rate.

“Well managed natural resources are crucial to sustainable development, supporting peaceful communities, encouraging well-balanced economic growth and helping reduce poverty,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN. “Protecting biodiversity protects valuable assets that are vital to the global economy.”

Julia Marton-Lefévre will be one of the speakers at the UNESCO launch of the International Year of Biodiversity at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France on 21 January.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ showed that 22 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of all known amphibians, 12 percent of all known birds, and 28 percent of reptiles, 37 percent of freshwater fish species, 70 percent of plants, 35 percent of invertebrates, assessed so far, are under threat.

Some estimates suggest that the current global rate of species extinction due to human activity is about 1000 times the natural rate of loss. With targets to reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010 not close to having been met, IUCN is calling for a stronger Convention on Biological Diversity to safeguard life on earth, in all its forms.

“We are facing an extinction crisis,” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group. “We need to remember that extinction is irreversible, once a species is extinct it is gone forever. The loss of this beautiful and complex natural diversity that underpins all life on the planet is a serious threat to humankind now and in the future.”

IUCN is calling for ambitious but realistic biodiversity targets, which can be clearly measured and put into practice. It also wants more research on the status of biodiversity, more protected natural areas, on land and sea, and closer collaboration with the business community to find new ways of combining conservation and commerce. Greater public awareness of what’s at stake if we continue to disturb and destroy ecosystems is also considered to be a high priority.

“Biodiversity is the basis of all life on earth,” says IUCN’s Head of Ecosystem Management Programme, Neville Ash. "We need practical action and supportive policies to conserve species, manage and restore ecosystems, including protected areas and the wider landscape, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources.”

Press Events:

• 20 January 2010: Launch of French round of European Capitals of Biodiversity Competition, Paris
• 21 January 2010: Launch of International Year of Biodiversity at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, attended by IUCN Director General, Julia Marton-Lefèvre
• 21 January 2010: Conference on Biodiversity and Climate Change, Brussels
• 26-27 January 2010:
European Conference, Madrid – Post 2010 Biodiversity Vision and Target: The role of Protected Areas and Ecological Networks in Europe



Further information:
IUCN Global Policy Unit

Media team:
Nicki Chadwick
, Media Relations Officer, m +41 76 771 4208, e nicki.chadwick@iucn.org
Pia Drzewinski, Media Relations Officer, m + 41 76 505 8865, e pia.drzewinski@iucn.org