2010 – International Year of Biodiversity

18 January 2010

The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity to call public attention to the status and consequences of the decline in the world’s biodiversity.

The International Year of Biodiversity was launched on January 11, 2010, in Berlin, Germany. In France, on January 12, Minister of State Jean-Louis Borloo launched the Year in a ceremony at UNESCO headquarters. On January 20, the French Nature Congress will open at the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris. In New York, the North American launch of the Year of Biodiversity will be celebrated on February 10.

Throughout 2010, special events all over the world will explain and increase understanding of what biodiversity is, the status of diversity, its value and how important preserving it is. A calendar of exhibitions and events can be found on the Web site of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity at www.cbd.int/2010/welcome.

In recognition of this important issue, the Cousteau Web site will feature articles about species and conservation throughout the year in our News section.

Biological Diversity or Biodiversity

Approximate 1.75 million species have been formally described out of a total number of species generally estimated at about 13 million, although estimates range from 3 million to 100 million. Most of these are microorganisms and invertebrates that are essential to building and breaking down the basic elements of all natural systems from soil to stomachs. Each species plays a role in the functioning of ecosystems and healthy functioning ecosystems are crucial to a healthy planet.

Organisms and ecosystems provide goods and services that allow humans to survive and prosper. Living organisms are essential factors in the cycling of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and water. They provide food, medicines, protection and energy. They pollinate our crops, fight our diseases, purify our water and nourish our soul. They moderate both climate and atmosphere.

Disappearing species



The disappearance of species is a natural phenomenon but the pace at which it is currently taking place has accelerated substantially because of human activities. The disappearance of ecosystems, and therefore species, that is directly or indirectly linked to human activities is racing at a speed 100 times faster than the observed long-term average, based on fossil data. According to some scientists, we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in geological history. The IUCN Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species estimates that 12 to 52% of the species in the well-studied groups like vertebrates and vascular plants are threatened with extinction. Of 61,259 vertebrate species that have been described, 26,604 of them have been evaluated and 10% are considered to be threatened. Of 1,232,384 described invertebrates, only 6,161 have been assessed and 41% of those are threatened. Of 298,506 species of plants, 12,055 have been evaluated, of which 70% are threatened.

Reduced biodiversity often causes lower productivity in ecosystems and reduces the stock of goods and services that Nature provides and that we use all the time. The loss of biological diversity weakens the ability of ecosystems to withstand natural catastrophes like floods, droughts, and storms, as well as the stresses imposed on them by humans like pollution and climate change.

Thus humans are both the author and the victim of the degradation of our planet that provides life as we know it.