Biodiversity BC - Conserving the Variety of Life

Why Biodiversity Matters

Photo Credit:
Bruce Harrison

"Creston Wildlife
Management Area"
In the Kootenay region of B.C.

Is Biodiversity at Risk?

The late 20th century saw unprecedented growth and "globalization" of economies around the world, which resulted in massive changes in the ways land and waters were managed on and around every continent. This economic expansion came at a tremendous cost to natural systems and the extinction rate of species and degradation of ecosystems around the world began to soar.

The United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded in 2005 that biodiversity is at risk on a global scale ... "human actions are depleting Earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted." At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years.

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity

In recognition of increasing pressure ont he planet's natural capital, representatives of governments around the world met in 1992 at the international Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to explore ways to conserve biodiversity.  The Earth Summit in Rio produced the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Canada was one of the first of 182 countries to sign the Convention, which recognizes the responsibility of individual countries to conserve biodiversity, to use biological resources sustainably, and to share related benefits equitably. To help fulfill that commitment, the federal, territorial and provincial governments formally endorsed a Canadian Biodiversity Strategy in 1995.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Between 2001 and 2005, more than a thousand scientists from all over the world took part in the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. They concluded that more than 60 per cent of the planet's ecosystems are degraded or unsustainably managed. They noted that species are disappearing at an alarming rate. They agreed that the negative impact on humans would become more severe if we do not act to conserve biodiversity and use natural resources in a sustainable manner.

The National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada reaffirmed this conclusion, stating in January 2004, that 'the biodiversity of earth is being reduced faster than at any time in history since the mass extinction some 60 million years ago'.

"Failing to conserve biodiversity puts future options, flexibility and economic opportunities at risk and passes enormous costs onto future generations." Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

For more than 10 years, federal, provincial and territorial governments have been working together to sustain Canada's biodiversity. In 1995, they worked together to design a blueprint for the conservation and sustainable use of Canada's living resources called the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy.

The Strategy affirms Canada's commitment to five goals:

  • to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources in a sustainable manner;
  • to improve our understanding of ecosystems and increase our resource management capability;
  • to promote an understanding of the need to conserve biodiversity and use biological resources in a sustainable manner;
  • to maintain or develop incentives and legislation that support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources; and
  • to work with other countries to conserve biodiversity, use biological resources in a sustainable manner, and share equitably the benefits that arise from the use of genetic resources.

In October 2006, federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for the environment met in Yellowknife to approve a national Biodiversity Outcomes Framework. This framework builds on the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy by:

  • identifying and linking current and future priorities;
  • seeking to engage Canadians in planning and implementation; and
  • reporting regularly on progress.

Biodiversity in BC

Compared to much of the world, B.C. continues to enjoy a tremendous wealth of natural diversity, thanks in part to initiatives by governments and non-government organizations to protect valuable natural features in parks and protected areas, to manage natural resource development more sustainably and to restore habitats damaged by past human activity.

Click here for highlights of current biodiversity conservation initiatives.

But despite these efforts, pressures on biodiversity continue to grow and the number of species at risk continues to increase. These pressures include:

  • Climate change
  • Ecosystem loss and alteration, and
  • Invasive alien species

It is the interaction of climate change with ecosystem loss and alterations that is causing the biggest threat.

We All Have a Stake in Conserving Biodiversity

All British Columbians benefit from healthy ecosystems. And all economic sectors - particularly resource-based industries - have a stake in sustainably managing the province's natural resources to conserve biodiversity. Biodiversity BC's science documents will provide advice for addressing challenges such as climate change adaptation, water conservation, and ecosystem health. Governments and stakeholders need to coordinate efforts and focus their energies more effectively toward conserving the province's natural capital.