Today is the United Nations’ International Day for Biological Diversity, an initiative that aims to raise understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This year marks the 12th International Day for Biological Diversity. The theme is “Water and Biodiversity”.
“Water is central to the well being of people and the planet,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a March address. “We must work together to protect and carefully manage this fragile, finite resource.”
In recognition of 2013’s International Day for Biological Diversity, here is a gallery of some water and biodiversity pictures Mongabay’s Rhett A. Butler has taken over the years in the course of his environmental reporting. Below the gallery is a set of messages the U.N. released to highlight the importance of water resources.
We hope you enjoy.
UN: Messages for the International Day for Biological Diversity 2013
1. Water is life and underpins human well-being, including food security, drinking water and sanitation, and most economic activities, as well underpinning ecosystem health and therefore biodiversity.
2. We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demands for water often outstrip supply, water quality fails to meet minimum requirements and the extremes of drought and flood are increasingly seen.
3. Water security is high on the political, public and business agendas; the World Economic Forum 2013 Global Risks report ranked water supply crises second only to major systemic financial failure, and ahead of food shortage crises, chronic fiscal imbalances and extreme volatility in energy and agricultural prices.
4. Ecosystems regulate the availability of water, and its quality; ecosystem degradation increases water insecurity; ecosystem conservation and restoration therefore help us achieve water security; biodiversity underpins these benefits and is therefore one of the most visible and important contributions of biodiversity to human well-being and sustainable development.
5. Ecosystems are natural water infrastructure that can serve the same purpose as built or physical infrastructure, such as dams and water treatment plants; natural and built water infrastructure can be managed together to achieve sustainable outcomes, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and delivering significant co-benefits. These are win-win outcomes between environment and development.
6. The use of natural infrastructure to manage water has a long history, spanning millennia, a strong evidence base, and is becoming increasingly widespread but yet to become mainstream to deliver its full potential.
7. Ecosystem components that exert major influences on water include forests, grasslands, wetlands and soils; working together these can deliver water security benefits at local, regional and global scales.
8. Without ecosystems, the water cycle, and dependent carbon and nutrient cycles, would be significantly altered, mostly detrimentally. Yet policies and decisions do not sufficiently take into account the interconnections and interdependencies, nor utilize these as solutions.
9. Water related benefits generally dominate the values that ecosystems provide, not just for wetlands but for most ecosystem types such as forests, grasslands and soils.
10. The impacts of climate change occur primarily through changes in the water cycle and this influence on ecosystems. Ecosystem based approaches are therefore a primary response for adapting to climate change and this is largely about managing water.
11. The water and carbon cycles are inter-dependent. Water is required to sustain carbon capture and storage by ecosystems and the plants and other biodiversity involved in that process in turn help regulate water; forests, for example, depend on water and also help regulate it. Climate change adaptation and mitigation are inter-dependent through water.
12. Examples of significant opportunities to use ecosystems to manage water include: improving the health of soils and land cover in farming landscapes to simultaneously achieve water security for food security and reduce off-farm impacts, including reducing water use, pollution, erosion and landslides; integrating natural infrastructure approaches into urban water management to achieve sustainable and secure cities; wetlands, such as floodplains, coastal marshes and estuaries, to increase resilience to natural disasters; managed landscapes, such as forests, to sustain drinking water supplies; reducing the risks from, and severity of, floods and drought.
13. Conserving or restoring ecosystems to manage water also delivers significant co-benefits. For example: wetlands can help regulate water but can also support significant fisheries; restoring soils can help achieve more productive agriculture and sustainable food security; forests provide timber and non-timber resources and habitat for pollinators and wildlife; improved landscapes provide significant recreational and cultural values. These benefits should be added to water-related benefits when considering returns on investments in water related infrastructure.