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What Does Biodiversity Mean to You?
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What Does Biodiversity Mean to You?

Last month, we asked our readers to tell us what biodiversity means to them. This quick poll question was prompted partly by a story that indicated that a worrying number of people thought biodiversity was a brand of washing powder. Well, we are happy to report that Nature Canada’s readers did not think biodiversity was a cleaning product and for the most part understood its true meaning. To check out the survey results and responses please click here. While several similar definitions exist, biodiversity is generally known as the variety of life forms on Earth – the genes, species and ecosystems that make up this planet we inhabit. The biodiversity we see today is the result of billions of years of evolutionary history, shaped by different combinations of life forms, their interactions with each other and their environment. Researchers and scientists use biodiversity as one measure to evaluate and monitor the health of ecosystems. Today, there are many millions of distinct biological species on Earth, almost all of which are increasingly altered by human activity, in ways that are lasting and difficult to predict. What is becoming clear is that human activity is the main cause of biodiversity loss. Direct threats include changes in land use, the introduction or removal of species, pollution, resource consumption and climate change. Biodiversity loss is significant because life on Earth depends on biodiversity. It is the source of food, fuel and water. It provides life-giving and irreplaceable services such as nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, water purification, climate regulation, pollination. Changes in biodiversity can therefore have profound effects on our health, livelihoods, culture and security. In an effort to counteract the trends the United Nations declared 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). One key message of International Year of Biodiversity campaign is biodiversity is “essential to sustain the living networks and systems that provide us with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on,” as stated by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the international legal and binding treaty. Nature Canada joined Countdown 2010 [an initiative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)], and pledged our commitment to help reduce biodiversity loss and ensure that all levels of government and society take action together to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010. With your help we gathered 1,840 signatures for the IYB petition/personal pledge that was sent last month to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Environment Minister John Baird and the environment critics from each of the opposition parties, urging them to take the following five actions:

  • Save one of Canada's greatest grasslands treasures and the wildlife that live there. Close the door on further industrial development within Alberta's Suffield National Wildlife Area;
  • Declare a moratorium on new tar sands expansion until environmental and human health issues have been fully addressed;
  • Commit to environmentally sustainable development in Canada's North. Demand that the Mackenzie Gas Project proceed only if it does not negatively impact the region's people and wildlife.
As the International year of Biodiversity comes to a close, consider the words of famed Harvard University biologistalso referred to as the “father of biodiversity”Edward O. Wilson who once said, "It is reckless to suppose that biodiversity can be diminished indefinitely without threatening humanity itself."   Sources: http://www.cbd.int/2010/biodiversity/ http://biodiversity.ca.gov/Biodiversity/biodiv_definition.html http://supporter.naturecanada.ca/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_VIEW_REPORT&SURVEY_ID=3440 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiversity Science Pages, October 2010, page 1.

Petition to Protect Canada’s Biodiversity
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Petition to Protect Canada’s Biodiversity

Nature Canada would like to thank all those who signed our letter asking the Canadian government to take action to conserve Canada's biodiversity during the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). The petition letter, having 1,840 signatures, has been sent to PM Stephen Harper, Environment Minister John Baird and the environment critics from each of the opposition parties, urging them to take the following five actions: • Protect at least 50 per cent of Canada's Boreal Forest; • Protect Canada's endangered wildlife by effectively implementing the Species at Risk Act; • Save one of Canada's greatest grasslands treasures and the wildlife that live there. Close the door on further industrial development within Alberta's Suffield National Wildlife Area; • Declare a moratorium on new tar sands expansion until environmental and human health issues have been fully addressed; and • Commit to environmentally sustainable development in Canada's North. Demand that the Mackenzie Gas Project proceed only if it does not negatively impact the region's people and wildlife. If you would like to celebrate the IYB, here are five things you can do: • Do your part to use nature’s resources wisely and conserve energy at home and work. • Support native birds and butterflies by planting gardens and placing feeders around your home. • Learn ten new things about nature in your region, and share what you know with ten other people. • Read at least one book or watch one movie this year about biodiversity, nature, or the environment. • Participate in at least one outdoor expedition, such as a bird watching trip, to connect with nature. Once again, thank you all for your efforts and continuous support. In 2010, we remember that biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life.

Three Major Decisions to Conserve Biodiversity
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Three Major Decisions to Conserve Biodiversity

All 193 Parties attending the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan ended their two week conference with the adoption of three major decisions:1) the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS); 2) the post-2010 (2011-2020) Strategic Plan; and 3) a resource mobilization strategy with the objective of increasing resources to enhance the implementation of the Convention.Click here to read these decisions (they are the first three decisions in the list of COP10 outcomes).
Parties have one year, between 02 February 2011 - 01 February 2012, to ratify the legally binding ABS Protocol. The Protocol will only enter into force after 50 ratifications. Although the Protocol was adopted, after many years of negotiations, some Parties were not satisfied. Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and some African nations expressed their concerns over the Protocol, which they find does not take into account their views. However, they did not stand in the way of its adoption.
Parties to the Convention also adopted a decision which endorsed the Government of Japan's proposal, submitted on September 22 at the United Nations General Assembly High Level meeting, to declare 2011-2020 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity. The objective of the proposal is to create momentum for the implementation of the CBD and its new Strategic Plan, as well as contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Many NGOs, including Conservation International and the Canadian Environmental Network, have supported the proposal.
There was some concern around the CBD's implementation, but these decisions have given us a little bit of hope. However, let's not forget that actions speak louder than words, and ink and paper. That being said, we ask you to send a letter urging the Canadian government to take action to conserve Canada's biodiversity during this International Year of Biodiversity.

World Vertebrate Populations Declining – How is Canada Doing?
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World Vertebrate Populations Declining – How is Canada Doing?

[three_fourth] A new study, The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World's Vertebrates, published in the journal Science, sheds light on the global biodiversity crisis we are facing today.

Carried out by 174 scientists from around the world, and using data for 25,780 species (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes) from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the study finds that an estimated 20% of the world's vertebrates are Threatened - assigned Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable status according to the IUCN Red List. Of the 20% are 25% of all mammals, 13% of birds, 22% of reptiles, 41% of amphibians, 33% of cartilaginous fishes (e.g., sharks and rays) and 15% of bony fishes (i.e., fish with scales). Their study shows that an average of 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move closer to extinction annually.
The main threats driving these species towards extinction are logging, over-exploitation, agricultural expansion and invasive alien species. Southeast Asia has experienced the most losses and faces high risk of extinction. Other regions seeing large declines in biodiversity include parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America and Australia.
On a more positive note, the study shows clear evidence that without conservation efforts biodiversity loss would have increased by 18%. Their analysis showed that 64 mammal, bird and amphibian species had their status improved due to such efforts. Three of these species (the California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus, and the Black-footed Ferret, Mustela nigripes, in the United States, and Przewalski’s Horse, Equus ferus, in Mongolia) had been extinct in the wild and later reintroduced.
To ensure that conservation work continues to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, their study shows that commitment and resources are needed. Referring to the tenth meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Biodiversity (CBD COP10) in Nagoya, Japan, IUCN's Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre says "this is clear evidence for why we absolutely must emerge from Nagoya with a strategic plan of action to direct our efforts for biodiversity in the coming decade. It is a clarion call for all of us – governments, businesses, citizens – to mobilize resources and drive the action required. Conservation does work but it needs our support, and it needs it fast!”
Canada's latest and most comprehensive report on biodiversity, Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010, shows that in this country 20% of amphibians are at risk of extinction, 17% percent of freshwater fish are Endangered or Threatened, 40% of grassland birds have been lost and there has been a 50% decline in the 35 shorebird species found in Canada. Canada's 4th National Report to the CBD (a reporting mechanism under the Convention every four years), which assessed progress towards the 2010 Biodiversity Target, showed that an average of 17% of Canadian species across all taxa are considered 'at risk', 30 species were Extirpated and 12 have gone Extinct.
Join us in urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take action in conserving Canada's natural heritage during this International Year of Biodiversity! And don't forget that there are changes we can all make in our everyday lives that will benefit biodiversity, too.
Photo 1: African Elephant
Photo 2: Burrowing Owl
[/three_fourth][one_fourth_last]Image of an African Elephant Image of burrowing owls[/one_fourth_last]

CBD COP10; The Action Begins
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CBD COP10; The Action Begins

We've mentioned the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in various blog posts, and we also mentioned the importance of COP10 in addressing the global biodiversity crisis the world is facing today. COP10 began today in Nagoya, Japan, and the time has come for some important (and delicate) issues to be agreed upon. Three of the main issues are: - A Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing; - A Strategic Plan for the post-2010 period; and - A new Strategy for Resource Mobilization. Call on Canada's Government to protect biodiversity by signing our open letter to Prime Minister Harper to take 5 steps on behalf of biodiversity. Read more of our CBD and International Year of Biodiversity related blog posts.

BirdLife International’s Position on the International Regime for Access and Benefit Sharing
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BirdLife International’s Position on the International Regime for Access and Benefit Sharing

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan this October will set the stage for the agreement on a crucial component of the CBD: Access & Benefit Sharing, or ABS. ABS is one of the three fundamental objectives of the CBD, and centers on access to genetic resources and sharing of benefits arising from their use. For example, an indigenous community holds the knowledge, passed through generations, that a certain plant has therapeutic properties (a genetic resource). A pharmaceutical company hears of this plant and would like to use it in the development of a new medicine. Under ABS, the pharmaceutical company will have to acquire (free) Prior Informed Consent from the indigenous people - the 'access' component of ABS - and enter into a contractual agreement with them. Once the resource has been commercialized, the pharmaceutical company will have to share the profits with the indigenous people - the 'benefit sharing' component of ABS. If the pharmaceutical company goes ahead without considering any of the ABS components, it may be labeled as committing an act of 'biopiracy'. BirdLife International believes that progress towards overcoming the biodiversity crisis faced by the world today, and implementing the CBD, largely depends on the adoption of a legally binding Protocol on ABS at COP10. However, draft text for the Protocol has yet to be finalized, although there are hopes that the Interregional Negotiating Group (ING) of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing (WG-ABS) will conclude this week's last-minute meeting with a draft, agreed upon by all Parties, to be presented for finalization and approval at COP10. According to Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, BirdLife’s Senior Adviser on Policy and Advocacy

Several key Governments see progress in developing a new agreement on ABS as absolutely necessary, and are willing to block progress in all other areas of the CBD until such an agreement is reached. We are asking politicians to get their acts together and stop unnecessarily blocking the negotiations.
In addition to the adoption of an ABS Protocol at COP10, BirdLife International believes that Parties must:
  • Adopt a comprehensive, ambitious and achievable Strategic Plan with associated 2020 Targets. This should include a framework to involve local communities and civil society in achieving its aims, and should recognise the importance of linking biodiversity conservation to improved livelihoods and poverty reduction.
  • Agree on mechanisms to ensure each country has the resources it needs for effective implementation of the CBD. This must involve an increase in biodiversity budgets in all countries, and new and increased money from developed countries to developing countries. We want governments to recognise that at least a tenfold increase in funding is needed by 2020.
  • Agree to expand protected area networks, particularly in marine areas, to cover all areas of particular importance for biodiversity. Standard criteria should be developed for the identification of sites of global biodiversity significance.
  • Agree on clear actions to promote synergies between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at national and international levels. Biodiversity and ecosystems underpin effective climate change mitigation and adaptation and are in turn impacted by climate change. This must be recognised within all decisions and actions taken to address climate change.
It's the International Year of Biodiversity so call on Canada's Government to protect biodiversity by signing our open letter to Prime Minister Harper to take 5 steps on behalf of biodiversity. Read about how Important Bird Areas (IBAs) help the CBD achieve its targets and why the CBD's implementation may be at risk.

Is the CBD’s Implementation at Risk?
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Is the CBD’s Implementation at Risk?

From September 18 to 21 negotiations took place in Montreal to finalize text for the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Protocol is designed to ensure that fair and equitable sharing of benefits arises from the utilization of genetic resources. The text was not finalized and it was proposed to reconvene before the tenth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan this October, but was refused by the EU representative; Canada, Australia and Switzerland did not voice a preference on whether or not to reconvene. Hope for adoption of the protocol at COP10 has somewhat diminished following some developed countries lack of keenness on the matter (mainly Canada and the EU). This creates a divide between biodiversity-rich countries (providers of genetic resources) and developed countries (users of genetic resources). Developed countries are afraid that a legally binding protocol with a compliance mechanism would hinder progress within the pharmaceutical, agribusiness and biotechnology sectors. Conversely biodiversity-rich countries believe that an ABS protocol is essential for the proper implementation of the CBD. They are also concerned that if the protocol is not legally binding, cases of biopiracy (unauthorized access to a genetic resource and not sharing the benefits arising out of its utilization with the community in which it was discovered) will be on the rise. When government leaders met on September 22, at the United Nations General Assembly High Level meeting to commemorate the International Year of Biodiversity, Brazil’s Minister of Environment, Izabella Teixeira, on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries (comprised of Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela – collectively holds almost 80% of the world’s biodiversity) stressed the importance of COP10; which sets the stage for three major decisions to be taken: 1) the Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing, 2) the Strategic Plan for the post-2010 period, and 3) the New Strategy for Resource Mobilization. Representatives from Denmark, Argentina, Belgium and the European Commissioner of the Environment stated that further action and commitment by Parties to the Convention was needed to conclude an ABS Protocol in COP10. Jim Prentice, Canada’s Minister of Environment, kept it short and sweet without mentioning the ABS Protocol. There are rumors that Canada is one of the main countries holding back the progress on this negotiation – presumably because of concerns over Traditional Knowledge held by indigenous communities. Failing to adopt the protocol in COP10 could significantly undermine the CBD, especially given that ABS is one of three CBD objectives. There is a bit of good news, a meeting has been confirmed to resume negotiations before COP10 - a little bit of hope? Call on Canada's Government to protect biodiversity by signing our open letter to Prime Minister Harper to take 5 steps on behalf of biodiversity. Check Undercover COP for updates on CBD negotiations.

IUCN Urges Governments to Make Funds Available to Slow Biodiversity Loss
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IUCN Urges Governments to Make Funds Available to Slow Biodiversity Loss

As a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity, the United Nations is holding a high-level meeting today, September 22, at its General Assembly's 65th session in New York to address the extinction crisis - the first high-level meeting to ever address this subject. The event is part of the United Nations effort to raise awareness about the loss of biological diversity (biodiversity) and shed light on the need to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - one of three UN Conventions born at the Rio Summit in 1992 to enable countries to conserve their biological diversity, sustainably use it and share, equitably and fairly, the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. A 10 year strategic plan, known as the Post-2010 Strategic Plan, consisting of 20 targets, is due to be adopted by the Parties to the CBD during the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan this October. The aim of the Strategic Plan is to assist Parties in halting the loss of biodiversity by 2020. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognizes that it is imperative to take into consideration the financial resources needed to achieve these targets and is calling on governments to address this issue at the high-level meeting before COP10. Examples of questions for discussion at today's meeting are:
- What are the human, institutional, scientific and financial resources that countries need in order to fully implement the Convention and what mechanisms are needed to ensure that each country has access to the resources it needs?
- How will you ensure that the post-2010 biodiversity strategy is reflected in your national biodiversity strategy and action plan, including a set of measurable national biodiversity targets? - How will you ensure that the post-2010 biodiversity strategy is reflected in your national and local development priorities and that biodiversity will be mainstreamed throughout government and in all sectors of society and the economy? "When governments meet next month in Nagoya they must be ready to invest what’s needed to halt biodiversity loss, and so avoid the much larger costs of inaction" says Julia-Martin Lefèvre, IUCN's Director General. According to the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species, 21 percent of mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 12 percent of birds, 35 percent of conifers and cycads, 17 percent of sharks and 27 percent of reef-building corals assessed are threatened with extinction!  

Biodiversity Action: The Guardian’s ‘Biodiversity 100’ Campaign
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Biodiversity Action: The Guardian’s ‘Biodiversity 100’ Campaign

We learned in May that the 2010 Biodiversity Target, to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss, had been missed. World leaders are going to meet again in Nagoya, Japan this October and hopefully adopt a new ambitious target for 2020 and a longer-term vision for 2050. Many are skeptical of the new plans and want to see more action and less paper and ink. The Guardian, a British national newspaper, has launched a new campaign, Biodiversity 100, to pressure governments to take more serious action towards conserving biodiversity. They’re compiling a list of 100 tasks to forward to governments and ask them to sign a commitment to action - before going to Nagoya. The tasks will address the G20 countries given that they have no excuses not to meet their obligations. The campaign is seeking actions that are aimed at protecting ecosystems or species, backed with strong scientific evidence and that are politically costly or opposed by interest groups. The more specific the tasks the better! For example, stopping a destructive industrial project such as the Mackenzie Gas Project or the Northern Gateway Pipeline, or changing or passing law such as repealing the harmful Schedule 2 of the Metal Mining and Effluent Regulations (MMER).  

Global Youth Call for Government Action on Biodiversity
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Global Youth Call for Government Action on Biodiversity

The voices of youth all over the world will be heard this October when representatives present a Youth Accord for Biodiversity at the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan. These teens and young adults are making it evident that biodiversity conservation is on their agenda, just as much (if not more so!) as it is on the agendas of world governments. They believe that they are the voice of the future and the acknowledge the important role they play in promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Like many of us, this coalition of young advocates, would like to see their governments take action towards conserving biodiversity. The Accord, drafted by youth and signed by over 4,000 young people in 60 countries, calls for actions such as: - Providing funding for educational programs on the value of and need for biological diversity; - Setting a defined target date to stop preventable loss of biodiversity; and - Implementing sustainable development practices in all areas. There's been great momentum leading up to COP10 this October, mainly due to the fact that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, and signing this Accord can only add to that. We at Nature Canada support the Youth Accord for Biodiversity. Nature Canada would like you to sign our letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging the Canadian Government to make significant efforts in protecting biodiversity this year - it is our chance to take action on behalf of future generations.

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