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IDB2012 booklet

IDB 2012

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The Green Wave

International Day for Biological Diversity 2012


Marine Biodiversity was the theme for International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) in 2012. Designation of IDB 2012 on the theme of marine ecosystems provides Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and everyone interested in marine life, the opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and increase practical action.


How Much Life Is in the Sea?

From 2000 to 2010, an unprecedented worldwide collaboration by scientists around the world set out to try and determine how much life is in the sea.

Dubbed the ‘Census of Marine Life’, the effort involved 2,700 scientists from over 80 nations, who participated in 540 expeditions around the world. They studied surface seawater and probed the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, sailed tropical seas and explored ice-strewn oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic.

By the time the Census ended, it had added 1,200 species to the known roster of life in the sea; scientists are still working their way through another 5,000 specimens to determine whether they are also newly-discovered species. The estimate of the number of known marine species - the species that have been identified and the ones that have been documented but await classification - has increased as a direct result of the Census efforts, and is now around 250,000. (This total does not include some microbial life forms such as marine viruses.) In its final report, the Census team suggested it could be at least a million. Some think the figure could be twice as high.


Marine and Coastal Biodiversity

Along the Coast

The Continental Shelf

The Open Ocean

The Deep

Great Migrations

The Human Impact

Causes of Decline

A Warmer Ocean

A More Acidic Ocean

The Problem of Over-Fishing

Why We Should Care

Blue Carbon

The Value of Marine Reserves

CBD and the Jakarta Mandate


Why We Should Care

For many coastal communities, the survival of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity is essential to their nutritional, spiritual, societal and religious well-being. But even for the many millions of people who may not think that they have any strong reliance on the ocean, marine ecosystems and wildlife provide all kinds of benefits.

Many coastal environments provide protection for those farther inland from the ravages of the sea. Coral reefs buffer land from waves and storms and prevent beach erosion. Dune systems on beaches stabilize shorelines from erosion and encroachment. Mangroves, mudflats and deltas trap sediment, preventing the land behind it from sliding ever-seaward.

The ocean world is in all our daily lives. For example, sponges from the Mediterranean have been used for painting, cooking, cleaning and even contraception for at least 5,000 years. Substances derived from seaweeds stabilize and thicken creams, sauces, and pastes, are mixed into paint and used to make paper and even in skin lotion and toothpaste.

Many marine plants and animals also contain a multitude of substances already being used, or identified as being of potential use, in medicines. Each of the 700 known species of cone snail produces a unique cocktail of 100 to 200 toxins, some of which have already been developed into pain killers: one, which has been on the market since 2004, is more than 100 times more powerful than morphine. A 2010 study predicted the existence of between 250,000 and close to 600,000 chemicals in the marine environment, approximately 92 percent of which remained undiscovered; those chemicals, the study’s authors estimated, might yield up to 214 new anti-cancer drugs, worth anywhere from US $563 billion to $5.69 trillion.

Most importantly of all, tiny marine plants called phytoplankton produce energy, like plants on land, through photosynthesis. As a result of that photosynthesis, they release oxygen. In fact, phytoplankton release half of all oxygen in the atmosphere.

Without life in the ocean, there would be no life on Earth.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme