Today marks the world-wide celebration of International Biodiversity Day 2014 – aimed at increasing awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme this year is Island Biodiversity which coincides with the International Year of Small Island Developing States.
The importance if island biodiversity for local economies, sustainable livelihoods and well-being
Islands around the world are home to some 600 million people – representing one-tenth of the world’s population. Islands have a wide variety of ecosystems like mountains, forests and wetlands and many islanders rely directly on these natural resources for their livelihoods and well-being. Healthy and functioning biodiversity on islands can provide defenses to natural disasters, support nutrient cycling, and soil and sand formation; and they contribute to the regulation of climate and diseases.
Islands – and in particular Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and loss or destruction of biodiversity.Never before have islands been so at risk. Their peoples, cultures, oceans and ecosystems are interlinked and threatened by natural disasters, invasive species, unsustainable development and other global shocks. These challenges are being compounded by the real and serious threat of climate change. While islands constitute less than 5% of the Earth’s landmass they provide habitat for 40% of all listed Critically Endangered and Endangered species.
Island Bright Spots: Invest in What Works
Islands are taking action to effectively conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable livelihoods. Despite significant vulnerabilities facing islands, leaders of island countries and countries with islands have made visionary commitments at local, national, regional and global levels. Notably, governments are working together in innovative partnerships with public and private partners to achieve the commitment targets. Inspired island solutions in action are “bright spots” that exemplify how together we can build on what is working to conserve and sustainably utilize our invaluable natural resources, and achieve the Aichi targets.
Among the priority actions for island biodiversity conservation is the management of invasive species, the establishment and management of marine and terrestrial protected areas, and the mainstreaming of ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change.
African island biodiversity conservation initiatives
There are many organsiations and initiatives across Africa that are working towards the conservation of biodiversity on islands, creating sustainable livelihoods for islanders, ensuring well-being for island populations by establishing biodiversity plans and projects and raising awareness of biodiversity.
Nature Seychelles is one suc example of an award-winning NGO in the Western Indian Ocean that leads exciting and change-making programmes including species and habitat conservation, monitoring, research, island restoration, climate change adaptation, eco-tourism, awareness and stakeholder action. It also manages the award-winning Cousin Island Special Reserve. One of their projects, Reef Rescuers, is an innovative in that aims to help build resilience by restoring and conserving coral reefs that have been affected by climate-induced coral bleaching. is piloting the first-ever large scale active reef restoration project in the region using ‘coral gardening’. Coral gardening involves collecting small pieces of healthy coral, raising them in underwater nurseries and then transplanting them to degraded sites that have been affected by coral bleaching. The Coral Gardening concept was selected from among other coral regeneration methods for its simplicity, cost effectiveness and low-impact on donor sites.