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Biodiversity in 2020

In a year known most for its disastrous events, one can take comfort in the discoveries that took place alongside such tragedies. Though the world will forever recognize 2020 as the year of the coronavirus pandemic, the year achieved some remarkable discoveries in the fields of biodiversity. Thus, last year, scientists were able to discover and identify 503 new species. 

“Once again, an end of year tally of new species has revealed a remarkable diversity of life forms and minerals hitherto undescribed,” Dr. Tim Littlewood, executive director of science at the museum stated.

The decline of biodiversity

These discoveries have once again reminded us of our world’s numerous mysteries. However, as the earth bears the harmful weight of industrialization, many of these mysteries will probably remain unknown. Thus, with biodiversity rapidly decreasing throughout the years everywhere, discovering new species became a task shackled with a time limit. “In a year when the global mass of biodiversity is being outweighed by human-made mass, it feels like a race to document what we are losing,” he said. “503 newly discovered species reminds us we represent a single, inquisitive, and immensely powerful species with the fate of many others in our hands”.

According to a United Nations Report, the number of native species living in land-based habitats has decreased by at least 20 percent since the 19’s. Furthermore, the mere existence of almost 40 percent amphibian species, nearly 33 percent reef-forming corals, and over a third of all marine animals continues to be threatened. 

Discovery of endangered species

The 503 new species discoveries include the identification of an endangered monkey called the Popa langur. This monkey can only be found in Mount Popa volcano in Myanmar. Moreover, according to the Guardian, only 200 to 260  monkeys remain in the wild. Yet, even with their small numbers, the decreased forest habitats and increased hunting still threaten their livelihood. Therefore, Miguez believes that scientifically identifying and labeling these species will aid in protecting them and their habitats. 

“The hope is that by giving this species the scientific status and notoriety it merits, there will be even more concerted efforts in protecting this area and the few other remaining populations,” he said in a statement.

Missing a critical deadline

On the other hand, though discoveries in the biodiversity field thrived in 2020, the world missed a very important deadline in that same field. 2020 marked the “final report card” for the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. A plan with a series of 20 objectives was agreed upon in 2010. Furthermore, the world didn’t fully achieve any of the targets and only six were considered “partially achieved”. 

“Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised”, said Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Director of the Convention on Biological Diversity. “The more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own well-being, security, and prosperity.”

The decrease in biodiversity and the increase in diseases

The loss of biodiversity equals more than the engagement and extinction of some unknown species. It equals the destruction of entire ecosystems. It equals the shortage of food and other resources. Moreover, it equals the reality we are suffering through today. Therefore, the decrease in biodiversity equals many profound consequences of human wellbeing and survival.

“As nature degrades,” said Elizabeth Mrema, “new opportunities emerge for the spread to humans and animals of devastating diseases like this year’s coronavirus. The window of time available is short, but the pandemic has also demonstrated that transformative changes are possible when they must be made.”

In brief, like any other year, 2020 thrived in certain fields while spiraling in others. However, as the clock continues to tick, it becoming more and more essential to transition our earth into a healthier planet. Moreover, understanding, discovering, and identifying more species will help in the journey of saving the planet. 

“Our understanding of the natural world’s diversity is negligible and yet we depend on its systems, interconnectedness, and complexity for food, water, climate resilience, and the air we breathe,” Littlewood told the National History Museum. “Revealing new and undescribed species not only sustains our awe of the natural world, it further reveals what we stand to lose and helps estimate the diversity we may lose even before it’s discovered.”

References:

Corbley -, B. A. (2021, January 20). Top 10 Species Discovered in 2020 Include a Harry Potter Snake and Desert-Dwelling Broccoli. Good News Network. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/top-10-species-discovered-in-2020/Denny, E. (2020, December 31). 503 New Species Identified in 2020, Including Endangered Monkey. EcoWatch. https://www.ecowatch.com/new-species-discovered-2020-2649707928.html?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5The world missed a critical deadline to safeguard biodiversity, UN report says. (2020, September 15). Science. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/09/world-missed-critical-deadline-to-safeguard-biodiversity-un-report/UN report highlights links between ‘unprecedented biodiversity loss.’ (2020, September 17). UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/09/1072292

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