What is Biodiversity (BD)?

 

Biological Diversity or Biodiversity refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources including, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part. It encompasses the variety of all forms of life on earth, which provides the building blocks for human existence and our ability to adapt to environmental changes in the future.

 

Biological diversity involves genetic, species and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity denotes the variation within species in the functional units of heredity present in any plant or animal, microbial or other origin of living things. Species diversity encompasses the variety of species - whether wild or domesticated, within a geographical area. Estimates of the total number of species (defined as a population of organisms which are able to interbreed freely under natural conditions) range from 5 million to 100 million globally; though less than 1.7 million have actually been described. In terms of species number alone, life on earth would appear to consist essentially of insects and microorganisms. Species diversity remains central to the evaluation of diversity at other levels, and is a constant point of reference in biodiversity conservation. Ecosystem diversity refers to the variety of life forms in a given territory or area and the ecological processes that make them function. Ecosystem diversity is often evaluated through measures of the diversity of the component species, the relative abundance of different species as well as consideration of the types of species.

 

Biodiversity is critical to the maintenance of a healthy environment. Its role in meeting human needs directly while maintaining the ecological process upon which our survival depends is enormous. Biodiversity not only provides direct benefits such as food, medicines, and energy; it also affords us a “life support system.” Biodiversity is required for the recycling of essential elements, such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. It is also responsible for mitigating pollution, protecting watersheds, and combating soil erosion. Because biodiversity acts as a buffer against excessive variations in weather and climate, it protects us from catastrophic events beyond human control. In a fundamental sense, experiencing and increasing our knowledge about biodiversity transforms our values and beliefs. Knowledge about biodiversity is valuable in stimulating technological innovation and providing the framework for sustainable development.

 

The immense economic value of biodiversity is well established. Many people visit forests, beaches, mountains, grasslands, lakes, ponds, estuaries and streams for extended vacations or short periods of relaxation. Around the world, the number of eco-tourists, people travelling to enjoy nature and various cultures, is increasing. All of these bring in large amounts of money each year. For example, medicine from wild products generates some $40 billion each year while nature tourism generates some $12 billion worldwide in annual revenues. Exports of agricultural products represent a very high proportion of foreign exchange earnings in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Examples include cotton, livestock, gum Arabic, and groundnuts in Chad; coffee, cotton, tea, and sisal in Tanzania: shrimp, cashew nuts, cotton, sugar, copra, and citrus in Mozambique; and cocoa, coffee, timber, bananas, and cotton in Côte d’Ivoire. Besides, before the discovery of petroleum in Nigeria, the national economy was largely dependent on three agricultural crops, namely: cocoa, oil palm and groundnuts. In addition, modern crop and animal improvement practices depend on genetic stock from natural ecological systems. Breeders and farmers rely on the genetic diversity of crops and livestock to increase yields and to respond to changes in environmental conditions. For example, genetic material for the improvement of the world’s major food crops, such as corn, wheat, and soybeans, are sourced from the wild. 

 

However, despite the importance of biodiversity to the survival of the present and future generations of Nigerians, the country is experiencing a high rate of biodiversity loss. Some of the issues that pose a collective threat to biodiversity protection in Nigeria include:

 

i. Exponential increase in population accompanied by intensified industrial activities for economic development;

 

ii. Dependency of the rural population (about 70% of the total population) on biodiversity resources

 

iii. Lack of clear and consistent national policy on biodiversity conservation;

 

iv. Poor coordination among relevant institutions; and

 

v. Insufficient funding of institutions, programmes and activities that contribute to biodiversity conservation.

 

In line with article vi of the Convention on Biodiversity, the Federal Ministry of Environment initiated the Strategy and Action Planning process in order to guarantee the conservation of Nigeria’s biological diversity.

 

1.2.Nigeria and the Convention on Biological Diversity

 

Nigeria was among the 153 countries that signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the United Nations Earth Summit in June 1992. The Convention is probably the most all-encompassing international agreement on biodiversity ever adopted. The five main aims are:

 

Conserving biodiversity at all levels: genetic, population, species, habitat, and ecosystem;

 

Sustainable development of biodiversity: to ensure that this diversity continues to maintain the life support systems of the biosphere;

 

Fair and equitable sharing of benefits from biodiversity: to recognize that social and   economic goals for the use of biological resources and benefits derived from genetic       resources is central to the process of sustainable development, and that this in turn will support conservation;

 

Sharing of relevant technology for sustainable development; and

 

Establishment of global financial mechanism for the conservation of   biodiversity

The Convention calls for partnership between nations and among government organisations, NGOs and the Private Sector. It calls for articulate planning strategies and programmes, with considerations for legislation, regulation, law enforcement, use of appropriate administrative mechanisms, research (data generation) and budgeting.

 

A related document, the Agenda 21 envisions a world with new development paradigm that recognizes the interdependency of humanity. Its opening paragraph captures both the frustration of our present situation and the hope for a better future for all mankind.

 

“Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfillment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nations can achieve this on her own; but together we can – in a global partnership for sustainable development.” - Agenda 21: Earth’s Action Plan, Chapter 1”.

 

The declaration stressed the need for inclusiveness, mutual respect and a more open society that accommodates the interests and contributions of all sectors of the society. 

 

“One of the major challenges facing the world community as it seeks to replace unsustainable development patterns with environmentally sound and sustainable development is the need to activate a sense of common purpose on behalf of all sectors of society. The chances of forging such a sense of purpose will depend on the willingness of all sectors to participate in genuine social partnership and dialogue, while recognizing the independent roles, responsibilities and special capacities of each.”-Agenda 21: Earth’s Action Plan, Chapter 27.