Sunday, October 17

2020: a truly unimaginable year for biodiversity | Environment

TThe year 2020 was always destined to be crucial for biodiversity, with the Cop15 conference in Kunming, China scheduled for October, in which the international community was expected to strike a Paris-style deal for nature. But the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic around the world forced biodiversity onto the agenda in a way never seen before.

Despite the postponement of Cop15, there was a frenzy of activity among the world’s leading environmental figures, as it became clear that the state of our planet had never been more urgent. In March, John Vidal was one of the first to report on the link between our destruction of nature and Covid-19, and the warnings continued.

In September, world leaders at the UN vowed to clamp down on pollution, adopt sustainable economies and eliminate the dumping of plastic waste into the oceans by mid-century as part of “meaningful action.” Leaders’ promise for nature was preceded by weeks of damning reports and studies on the Earth’s environmental state, including the Living Planet Report 2020, which found that global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles declined. by 68% on average. between 1970 and 2016. In June, scientists warned that the sixth mass extinction of the planet’s wildlife was accelerating.

As it stands, the postponed draft agreement for the Kunming conference, which is expected to take place next year, has as its main goals protecting 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030, introducing controls on invasive species and reduce plastic pollution and excess. nutrients.

Goats were seen roaming the towns of Wales as the coronavirus shutdown emptied the streets.
Goats were seen roaming the towns of Wales as the coronavirus shutdown emptied the streets. Photograph: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

As the blockades took effect around the world, people noticed nature in new ways. As the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) noted this month in announcing that its postponed World Conservation Congress will be held in September 2021 in Marseille: “The world increasingly recognizes the inextricable link between the conservation of nature. biodiversity and human and economic well-being, a connection made even more visible by the Covid-19 pandemic. “

Age of Extinction’s Wild Cities series reminded everyone that you don’t have to be out in the country to see nature around you – as the cities stopped bustling, nature was seen to flourish.

But there were disturbing stories of threats to wildlife throughout the year. In July, we revealed the full scope of the aftermath of last year’s fires in Australia with a road trip that showed the devastation, but also the determination of those working to save wildlife and the landscape. As reports continue to demonstrate the shocking impact of the 2019-2020 fires, record temperatures in Australia this season have sparked fears that there is still more to come.

Despite frantic efforts by the Canadian government, indigenous peoples and construction crews, the outlook for wild Pacific salmon caught in a canyon in northwestern British Columbia remains bleak. But in an attempt to shore up diseased populations, fisheries officials have announced plans to create a permanent “fishing route” to allow migratory salmon to avoid the debris.

A young male brown long eared bat.  A new £ 60 sensor offers researchers a richer insight into the lives of elusive mammals.
A young male brown long eared bat. A new £ 60 sensor offers researchers a richer insight into the lives of elusive mammals. Photograph: Hugh Clark / Bat Conservation Trust

The Age of Extinction project annual report showed that all is not lost. From scientists like Angelica Patterson who research migratory trees, and those in Norway who patiently learn from their study of dead reindeer, to people like Theo and Gloria Ferguson who provide shelter for hummingbirds, and the entire suburb of Costa Rica that chose to grant citizenship to them. bees, we are extraordinary people working to change the way we treat nature and improve its life chances.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be following up on some of the stories we covered during 2020 with new reports on what happened next, from advances in DNA barcoding to the race to save Europe’s secret Amazon and the threat of the Asian giant hornet.

In February, we highlighted the plight of cougars locked up on California freeways. Two months later, they were granted temporary endangered species status. Not saved yet, but moving in the right direction. We report on the hunting of birds in France and the death of bees amid the mass production of almonds in California. Since then, France has banned catching birds with sticks covered in glue, while scientists and conservationists are working to solve the global threat to bees, progress includes a technological innovation from Ireland to help control hives and prevent death of colonies.

The technology is proving to be an important defense to protect animals, from bats to pangolins, jaguars and even corals. However, traditional methods are also being recognized as vital, whether in the way we herd livestock, repopulate our forests, or continue to honor ancient practices.

The need to recognize the knowledge of indigenous peoples as protectors of nature was a growing theme of the year. Earlier this month, representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities met to discuss their views on the Kunming draft agreement and suggested that it should be changed to recognize indigenous lands separately from those protected by nature.

“Indigenous lands remain islands of biodiversity surrounded by a sea of ​​destruction,” said Joji Carino, an Ibaloi-Igorot from the Philippines, and senior policy advisor to the Forest Peoples Program at an event on the UN draft, in words that those of the indigenous leader Célia Xakriabá were echoed earlier this year.

In Kenya we reported on the conservation model, with land managed by local people for the conservation of wildlife. Since then, Covid-19 has taken its toll, with tourism nearly over, but the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservation Association and its partners have created a rescue fund to provide emergency aid. India’s first “green” village continues to rely on its sustainable agricultural practices with stopped tourism. In Canada, Quebec reached its Aichi goal of protect 17% of its territory by the end of 2020 working with Cree Nation.

Dendrobium aurifex was on Kew Garden's 2020 New Species List.
the dendrobium goldsmiths is one of 19 new orchid species found in New Guinea featured on Kew Garden’s 2020 New Species List. Photograph: Bala Kompalli / RBG Kew

In the UK, the reintroduction of the Manchester argus butterfly to the Astley Moss bogs was another success story. Nearly 50 were released this summer, returning them to a landscape they had been absent from for nearly 150 years. The Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership was delighted to see evidence of mating before the butterflies died naturally in August and are waiting to see how many eggs hatch into caterpillars in spring.

While more wildlife was added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2020, there were many new discoveries to celebrate, from dovetail and flycatchers in Indonesia to continued surprises in New Guinea, the world’s most biodiverse island.

Altogether, 2020 has shown that our beautiful and diverse world is threatened, but that there is still time to save it.

Find more coverage on the era of extinction here and follow the biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for the latest news and features

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