International Day for Biological Diversity 2020

Biodiversity loss is a loss for humanity

Biological diversity is often understood in terms of the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms, but it also includes genetic differences within each species — for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock — and the variety of ecosystems (lakes, forest, deserts, agricultural landscapes) that host multiple kind of interactions among their members (humans, plants, animals).

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Biological diversity resources are the pillars upon which we build civilizations. Fish provide 20 per cent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Over 80 per cent of the human diet is provided by plants. As many as 80 per cent of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant‐based medicines for basic healthcare.

But loss of biodiversity threatens all, including our health. It has been proven that biodiversity loss could expand zoonoses - diseases transmitted from animals to humans- while, on the other hand, if we keep biodiversity intact, it offers excellent tools to fight against pandemics like those caused by coronaviruses.

While there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to future generations, the number of species is being significantly reduced by certain human activities. Given the importance of public education and awareness about this issue, the UN decided to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity annually.

2020 Theme: Our solutions are in nature

As the global community is called to re-examine our relationship to the natural world, one thing is certain: despite all our technological advances we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy, just to name a few. The theme “Our solutions are in nature” emphasizes hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature.

The theme will cover 3 essential topics during the week leading up to the observance: 18 May will cover the importance of knowledge and science; 19-21 May will raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity; and finally, the day of the observance, will issue a call to action.

2020 is a year of reflection, opportunity and solutions. It is expected, from each of us, that we will “Build Back Better” by using this time to increase the resilience of nations and communities as we recover from this pandemic. 2020 is the year when, more than ever, the world can signal a strong will for a global framework that will “bend the curve” on biodiversity loss for the benefit of humans and all life on Earth.

2020 will witness the final period of the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan on Biodiversity and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, as well as the UN Decade on Biodiversity, leading to the transitional phase for the start of other new pivotal biodiversity-related decades for the period 2021-2030: the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable

Development and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration; and the UN Biodiversity Summit, in order to highlight the urgency of action at the highest levels in support of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Chinese premier stresses protection of biodiversity

Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday called for further efforts to implement major biodiversity protection projects and to enhance awareness of protecting wildlife resources in society.

Biodiversity is an important foundation for the survival and development of humanity, and for the harmonious coexistence between man and nature, Li said in a written instruction to a publicity campaign for the upcoming International Day for Biological Diversity, which falls on May 22.

In recent years, China has worked out a series of protective measures and policies on biodiversity protection, and has achieved notable results in this regard. The achievements have received wide recognition, Li noted.

The premier urged for more work to be done to improve laws and regulations, implement major biodiversity protection projects, protect wildlife resources in a down-to-earth manner and build a natural reserve system with national parks as the theme.

He also called for more efforts to further raise public awareness of protecting wildlife resources, and increase international exchange and cooperation to contribute to global biodiversity protection. Enditem

China Focus: Protecting biodiversity with technology

Chinese scientists are using high-tech tools to try to bring endangered species like the green peafowl back from the brink.

Since the 1990s, the population of green peafowls, native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, has dropped sharply in China. No pure green peafowls can be found in captivity.

Thanks to genome sequencing technology, six pure green peafowls have laid more than 20 eggs since late last year at the Kunming Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Chinese researchers have been using new technologies like genome sequencing, remote sensing and artificial intelligence (AI) to protect biodiversity and safeguard the country's natural infrastructure.

Using genome sequencing and the published genome of pure green peafowl, researchers from the Kunming Institute of Zoology found six pure green peafowls in the Hengduan Mountains and breed them in labs imitating the wild environment.

Kunming is also home to the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species in Southwest China. This Chinese "Noah's Ark" comprises a seed vault, an in-vitro micro-propagation unit, a microorganism bank, an animal germplasm bank, and a DNA bank.

Scientists have saved more than 6,000 DNA samples of wild plants and animals in the DNA bank.

Li Dezhu, a leading researcher at the germplasm bank, said there are still many hurdles for the conservation of animal germplasm resources.

The research team has made progress in preserving some animal germ and embryo cells for a relatively short time. Under current technological conditions, the cell samples are yet to be restored to a living animal, but they provide an important reserve for future protection, Li said.

In 2013, the CAS launched the Chinese Biodiversity Observation and Research Network (Sino BON), a biodiversity network monitoring system supported by advanced technologies such as near ground remote sensing, satellite tracking and molecular biology.

According to its annual report in 2019, the network's remote sensing platform had applied ground-based and backpacked LiDAR (like radar but using light) as well as drones to map the forest structure more precisely, providing data support to better understand the biodiversity.

Infrared cameras to monitor wildlife were set up in 30 monitoring areas across the country with about 30 to 150 cameras in each area.

Last August, cameras recorded Bengal tigers for the first time in Tibet's Metok County, indicating the environment is suitable for the survival of the big cats.

The Sino BON also brought high-speed Internet to Chebaling National Natural Reserve in Guangdong Province, achieving automatic uploading, recognition and analysis of monitoring images.

New technologies also enable amateurs to engage in protecting biodiversity.

Last year, an app called "Notes of Life" went online. It allows people to take a photo and upload it to the app to identify an unknown plant or animal.

Developed by the Institute of Zoology under the CAS, the app is built on Baidu's PaddlePaddle, an open-source AI framework focusing on image recognition.

Lin Congtian, a researcher from the institute, said the lack of taxonomists, biologists who specialize in organism classification, has hindered biodiversity protection and the application of AI helps fill in the gap.