21.05.2014

Legacy of a unique evolutionary history – biological diversity of islands

The theme of the 2014 International Day for Biological Diversity is "island biodiversity". This is a crucial issue, for islands are home to a multitude of endemic plant and animal species that are becoming increasingly threatened. The International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Environment Ministry supports projects aimed at protecting island biodiversity.

Since 2000, 22 May has been known as the "International Day for Biological Diversity" in remembrance of 22 May 1992 when the international community agreed in Nairobi on a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 1993, the CBD came into force, and with 193 parties, it has become one of the most successful UN conventions. The goal is to halt the loss of biological diversity by 2020. The Strategic Plan 2011-2020 provides the framework over the coming years for ambitious biodiversity policies that span the globe.

Every year, a different theme is set for 22 May. In an analogous move to the UN’s declaration making 2014 the year of "small island developing states", the CBD theme for 2014 is "island biodiversity". This is an absolutely crucial issue, for islands are home to a multitude of endemic plant and animal species that are becoming increasingly threatened. Due to the isolation of islands, there are limited possibilities for these specialised species to change their distribution, which renders them particularly susceptible to climate change, altered habitats, other invasive species, land use change, overexploitation of resources and environmental pollution. The loss of island species is therefore particularly high: of the 724 species whose extinction was documented over the past 400 years, more than half came from island ecosystems, their coasts, or surrounding marine areas.

For the people living on islands, these unique ecosystems generally also form the basis of their livelihoods and are therefore necessary for a functioning economy, the wellbeing and the cultural identity of 600 million people around the world, or approximately one-tenth of the global population. Island states are important partners of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) in implementing climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation measures. Through the IKI, the BMUB has provided around EUR 100 million in support of numerous projects with relevance for island biodiversity, mainly in the areas of ecosystem-based adaptation to the impacts of climate change and conservation of biological diversity. In many cases, these projects provide effective development activities that extend beyond the boundaries of the small island states to the entire region. The projects of the International Climate Initiative therefore also substantially contribute to promoting intergovernmental biodiversity and adaptation strategies in island regions.