International Day for Biological Diversity - 22 May 2012

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

The Value of Marine Reserves

In many cases, and whenever applicable, a hugely successful factor in promoting the recovery of coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity is the establishment of marine reserves and marine protected areas (MPAs).

For example, a comprehensive study found that, on average, coral cover remained stable or slightly increased in areas that were covered by MPAs, while it continued to decline in areas that did not. Recovery of coral cover and size distribution after bleaching and hurricane disturbance was significantly enhanced inside a marine reserve in the Bahamas compared to outside. There is evidence also that protecting species inside a reserve’s boundaries can have ‘spillover’ effects that result in increases in fish outside those boundaries, leading to economic benefits for local fisheries. In Kenya, fishers’ catches and income strongly increased after the establishment of closed areas in conjunction with the aforementioned beach seine bans.

Far less area has been set aside as a reserves in marine and coastal waters than on land. Whereas approximately 13 percent of the world’s land surface area is protected in reserves, in marine environments that figure is a little over one percent. However, progress is being made, and the Convention on Biological Diversity has established a target of 10 percent of all coastal and marine waters being protected in reserves by 2020.

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