Special topic: International Day for Biological Diversity - Safeguarding the diversity of life

Fallen tree trunk at the beach

Rise of the sea level at the coast of the Cahuita National Park in Costa Rica; Picture: Gitti Müller

The 'International Day for Biological Diversity' has been held on 22 May since 2000. It is a date that recalls 22 May 1992, when the international community agreed on the text of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Nairobi. Soon afterwards, in June 1992, the Convention was presented at the Summit in Rio de Janeiro for signatures. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force in 1993, and with 193 Parties is now one of the most successful conventions of the United Nations.


Every year, the International Day for Biological Diversity has a different theme. In 2013 it centres on the connection between water and biodiversity, reflecting the 'International Year of Water Cooperation' called for by the UN. The CBD member states have set the objectives of protecting and conserving the diversity of life on Earth, and managing its sustainable use in such a way that as many people as possible can benefit from it today and in the future. The functionality of the ecosystems should be preserved to safeguard people's livelihoods around the world in the long term. While the Convention places great value on conservation and research into biological diversity, its usage by people is also clearly defined. The CBD's understanding is that this can only follow the sustainability approach that connects ecological, economic, social and political issues in a balanced fashion.

By ratifying the Convention, the CBD Parties commit to conserve biological diversity within their own countries as well as to support other countries, in particular developing countries, to achieve the Convention's objectives. Since 2008, the International Climate Initiative (ICI) of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) has been supporting a total of 115 biodiversity projects around the world, with funding totalling approximately EUR 387 million. Within this context, ICI has also been contributing to achieving the objectives of the Convention's Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and, among others things, to the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas. The establishment and maintenance of national and regional protected areas has been at the centre of BMU's support for its partner countries.

One of the ICI's major objectives is to establish synergies between climate change mitigation and adaptation and the conservation of biological diversity. As a result, a third of all ICI projects within the areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation are simultaneously contributing to the global protection of biological diversity and the sustainable use of natural resources. One example of a successful ICI project that has achieved effective synergies between biodiversity protection and adaptation to climate change is the 'Marine and Coastal Biodiversity in Costa Rica' project being conducted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit:

Context: Costa Rica is already suffering today from the impacts of climate change. Changes in rainfall patterns, frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, a rise in sea levels, and higher sea surface temperatures have all become part of daily life in the Central American country.

The conservation of marine coastal ecosystems is particularly important for the country since these ecosystems provide a natural buffering function in the face of storm surges, coastal erosion, floods and the salinisation of the soil and groundwater. Costa Rica is a biodiversity hotspot and home to a large number of endemic plant and animal species. Around 6,700 marine species live in its costal waters.

Project: The project has the objective of establishing a national protection system that encompasses as many ecosystems as possible. To this end, it is developing efficient management and financial concepts, creating biomonitoring structures and conducting corresponding vulnerability and risk analyses of existing protected areas and those which are yet to be established. The lessons learned over the course of these analyses serve as a basis for innovative concepts and strategies towards climate change adaptation. The staff of the protected areas and other relevant stakeholders such as local NGO representatives will be sensitised and receive corresponding training on topics such as participative management of protected areas and climate change. The focus of the activities and their impacts will be on the future prospects of local people who have been living in the coastal region and have been particularly affected by the impacts of climate change.