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UPDATED: March 6, 2010 NO. 10 MARCH 11, 2010
Saving Biodiversity
China takes actions to cut species losses in the International Year of Biodiversity


SHINING GREEN: Leaves of trees look fresh and beautiful in the sunshine at Wuzhishan Nature Reserve in Hainan Province (QIAN HAN) 

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity on January 11 to highlight continued devastation of the planet's natural resources.Chinese Version>>

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it a "wake-up call" to protect the globe's natural resources. He said the action accorded with the deadline adopted by governments in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of loss of the diversity of species and ecosystems of the planet.

The theme of the International Year of Biodiversity is "Biodiversity Is Life, Biodiversity Is Our Life."

On January 26, actions related to the International Year of Biodiversity started in China.

Alarm bell

Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustain living networks and systems providing us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on, said Rolf Hogan, Program Manager for Biodiversity of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the world's largest and most effective independent organizations dedicated to the conservation of nature.

He said that people must take actions to protect biodiversity in order to sustain a strong biological system.

Scientists say there are about 34,000 kinds of plants and more than 5,200 kinds of animals on the planet facing extinction and the rate of loss due to human activities is as much as 1,000 times higher than natural attrition.

"The loss of the beautiful and complex natural diversity underpinning all life on the planet is a serious threat to humankind now and in the future," said Jane Smart, Director of the Biodiversity Conservation Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's oldest and largest global environmental network.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species on November 3, 2009 showed 22 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 12 percent of birds, and 28 percent of reptiles are under threat. To this was added 37 percent of freshwater fish species, 70 percent of plants and 35 percent of invertebrates assessed so far.

According to UN statistics, forest devastation and degradation alone will cause between $2 trillion to $4.5 trillion in economic losses each year. By comparison, global losses from the financial downturn that started in 2008 amounted to about $4.1 trillion, the International Monetary Fund estimates.

Government actions

"Conservation of biodiversity is the common responsibility of the whole world. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the International Year of Biodiversity and has put in place an action program to conduct a series of activities to encourage the public to participate in biodiversity conservation," said Zhou Shengxian, Minister of Environmental Protection of China.

He said China was one of the 12 countries in the world with rich biodiversity, one of the eight centers of the origin of crops and one of four origin centers of cultivated plants, so it was important for China to conserve biodiversity.

In 1993, China signed the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which is based on the premise the world's diverse ecosystems purify air and water, stabilize and moderate the Earth's climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants.

In 1994, China issued its Biological Diversity Protection Action Plan and set up a coordination group consisted of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and 24 departments of the State Council, China's cabinet, to guarantee the implementation of the UN convention.

Then China set up a joint conference system for biological species resource protection and issued the Implementation Plan for the Nationwide Wetland Protection Program (2005-10). It also fulfilled a group of bilateral and multilateral international projects cooperating with the UN Secretariat, the UN Environmental Program and Development Program, the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility.

In January 2003, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a rescue project, planning to increase various types of plants under protection to 21,000 from 13,000 in its 12 botanic gardens and to build the world's largest botanic garden covering an area of 458 square km.

By the end of 2008, China had set up 2,538 natural reserves. The total area they cover accounts for 15 percent of China's land area, 3.1 percentage points higher than the world's average level.

Recently, the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences set up a key laboratory for biodiversity informatics to make extensive research in the three main fields of diversity: gene, species and ecosystems.

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