Celebrating Wildlife Conservation Day: The Critical Role of Biodiversity
World Wildlife Conservation Day
December 4th marks Wildlife Conservation Day. This day was created in 2012 by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise awareness of issues including wildlife extinction, endangerment and global wildlife trafficking and poaching and to promote the protection of the decreasing numbers of wildlife species across the globe.
The world is losing wildlife species at an alarming rate. Based on the WWF Living Planet Report 2022, in 48 years, between 1970 and 2018, there has been an average 69% decline in the relative abundance of monitored wildlife populations around the world. In addition, based on a 2019 UN study, approximately additional one million animal and plant species are now facing extinction in the coming decades.
With so much of our wildlife at risk of extinction, our fragile ecosystems need protection more than ever. There are mainly two strategies of conservation – in situ conservation and ex situ conservation. The process of protecting an endangered plant or animal species in its natural habitat such as National Parks is commonly known as in situ conservation. On the other hand, ex situ conservation is the relocation of endangered or rare species from their natural habitats to protected areas equipped for their protection and preservation and an example would be of zoological parks.
However, at the heart of effective wildlife conservation practices, lies the fundamental concept of biodiversity.
What is biodiversity and why is it important?
Biodiversity is the foundation upon which ecosystems thrive. Defined by WWF as different kinds of life you will find in one area – the variety of animals, plants, fungi and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. It also refers to how different species interact with each other in these ecosystems. From lush rainforests to expansive coral reefs, the variety of species within an ecosystem contributes to its resilience and functionality. Each organism, no matter how small, plays a unique role in maintaining the balance of nature.
Biodiversity is therefore important as a key indicator of the health of an ecosystem. In every ecosystem, species rely on each other, for example – plants undergo photosynthesis and provide oxygen, bees and other insects play an important role for pollination of plants, predators keep herbivore populations under control, humans reliant on agriculture crops that provide food, feed, fuel and fibre and so on. When species start to go extinct — whether it’s apex predators or the fungi that decompose dead material—the system of checks and balances begins to go awry.
Biodiversity in action
Take the example of the role of bees in the most fundamental ecological processes – pollination of plants to produce fruits and vegetables. Let’s talk specifically about the growing of Almonds as a case study.