Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

We all have a duty to preserve biodiversity

An Arabian Oryx at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary some 290 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi near the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia. AFP
An Arabian Oryx at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary some 290 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi near the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia. AFP

We have long known that climate change threatens our planet’s biodiversity, but the harmful impact of human activity on wildlife is far graver than many of us realise. On Monday, the United Nations released a report on biodiversity, which promises a bleak future. In the far-reaching study, which compiled 15,000 scientific and government reports, the world’s leading scientists warn that if we do not reverse course, more than one million species of plants and animals will become extinct within decades. Three-quarters of the Earth's land and two-thirds of its oceans have been severely damaged or lost thanks to human interventions, making it much harder for animals and plants to survive. And mass extinction will inevitably have an impact on humans. According to Robert Watson, who led the study, these events will threaten “food security, water security, human health and social fabric" in our lifetimes. The time has come both to recognise the damage we are causing, and take concrete action to mitigate it.

From desertification to the melting of ice caps, rising temperatures are changing or destroying the habitats of countless species and killing off plants, which are crucial to the production of oxygen. Pollution and industrialisation have also created 400 “dead zones” across the globe, endangering marine life and the livelihoods of millions of people. This vast array of complex environmental issues underlines the need for concerted efforts at all levels, to ensure our own survival. We can all make changes in our daily lives to limit our impact on the planet, from purchasing less plastic to decreasing our intake of meat and dairy. But these important individual efforts must be backed by policy-makers, governments and corporations.

Right here in the UAE, sustained conservation efforts have managed to bring imperilled species back from the brink. The Arabian Oryx was declared extinct in the 1970s, but efforts initiated by Sheikh Zayed to reintroduce the species have made the UAE home to the largest population of Arabian Oryx in the world. More than 40 years ago, the nation launched one of the world’s largest repopulation programmes, to preserve the vulnerable houbara bird. Statistics reveal that the number of wild houbaras in the UAE has risen from two in 1998 to 39,137 today. Efforts have also gone into protecting marine life in Abu Dhabi, which is now home to the world’s second-largest dugong population, thousands of which live in the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. These success stories prove that there is much we can do to preserve biodiversity before we reach a point of no return. International co-operation and consumer changes are both required if we are to preserve our planet’s wonderfully diverse ecosystems.

Updated: May 7, 2019 05:58 PM

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