Wildlife & Biodiversity

International Day for Biological Diversity 2020: Spotlight on nature-based solutions

The purpose of observing the International Day for Biological Diversity is to highlight importance of conserving biodiversity

By Meenakshi Sushma
Published: Friday 22 May 2020
International Day for Biological Diversity 2020 stresses on importance of conserving diverse food systems Photo: World Bank

The International Day for Biological Diversity, that falls on May 22, has put the spotlight on nature-based solutions (NbS) this year. This theme emphasises hope, solidarity and the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature.

The Convention on Biological Diversity decides a theme for the day every year.

Building momentum to increase awareness on the importance of biodiversity and global issues on biodiversity loss are the aims that this day seeks to achieve.

Around 25 per cent of all animal and plant species across the world are threatened with extinction. As far as land use is concerned, 85 per cent of wetlands is converted, while 75 per cent of land surface across the world has been altered.

NbS are actions that protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that simultaneously provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This is an umbrella concept that covers a whole range of ecosystem-related approaches, all of which address societal challenges to achieve biodiversity. These approaches can be classified into five main categories:

  • Ecosystem restoration approaches: Ecological restoration, engineering, and forest landscape restoration
  • Issue-specific ecosystem related approaches: Ecosystem-based adaptation and mitigation, services disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation.
  • Infrastructure related approach: Natural infrastructure and green infrastructure.
  • Ecosystem-based management approaches: Integrated coastal zone management and water source management.
  • Ecosystem-based management approach: Area-based conservation approaches including protected area management.


Pollinators, that help plants produce food, that in turn, help sustain life on the planet, are threatened by man-made activities and a loss in biodiversity.

Several pollinators — including butterflies and bees — faced high levels of threat, according to a 2016 Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report on pollination, pollinators and food production.

Populations declined for 37 per cent of bees and 31 per cent of butterflies, according to the report. In Europe, nine per cent of bees and butterfly species were threatened, said the report.

The report, however, excluded species comprising of 57 per cent of bees because of a lack of data. This means the extent of decline in population may be much more than reported.

More than 40 per cent of bee species may be threatened in areas where IUCN red list assessments were available, showed the report. These red lists measure changes in biodiversity and steps taken to conserve them through assessments of individual species.

Food systems

Agriculture, food security and nutrition depend directly on biodiversity. Food systems rely on ecosystem services that include soil fertility, water quality etc. Agriculture biodiversity is, however, on the decline, putting long-term food security at stake.

Only nine plant species account for 66 per cent of global crop production, according to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN Biodiversity), that recommended three ways to strengthen food system biodiversity. They are:

  • Genetic diversity in farms: This improves crop adaptability to local conditions and is more resilient to pests disease and climate change.
  • Planting a wider variety of crops: This supports healthier diets and leads to better nutrition and less reliance on a limited number of crops.
  • Reducing pesticide usage: This helps maintain pollinator populations. Bees, bats and other pollinators are needed by 75 per cent food producing plants across the world.

IPBES gives five reasons why it is important to conserve biodiversity:

  • 75 per cent of land is altered because of human action.
  • Up to one million species are threatened with extinction.
  • Three-fourth of food crops rely on animal pollination.
  • 33 per cent of marine fish stock harvested unsustainably.
  • Four billion people rely primarily on natural medicines.

Investing in biodiversity can strengthen the adaptive capacity of food systems to provide healthy and culturally-relevant nutrition.

UN Biodiversity maintains that NbS can help achieve the second Sustainable Development Goal that calls for a world free of hunger.

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