Press Statement for Earth Day 2023
BIODIVERSITY RESEARCH AND KNOWLEDGE SHARING: A VIABLE INVESTMENT FOR THE PLANET
By Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, Executive Director, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth and the interactions between living organisms and their environment. It includes not only the number of species but also their genetic and functional diversity. However, human activities such as deforestation, habitat destruction, overfishing, and pollution have significantly impacted biodiversity, threatening the survival of many species and disrupting ecosystem services that support human life.
In this year’s celebration of Earth Day with the theme “Invest in our Planet,” the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity highlights biodiversity research and knowledge-sharing as critical investments for the planet’s sustainability and well-being.
Science-policy interface for biodiversity
Understanding biodiversity and its functions is fundamental to developing effective conservation strategies. Biodiversity research can provide us with essential knowledge about the distribution, abundance, and ecology of species and ecosystems, which is necessary to prioritise conservation efforts, formulate and implement relevant policies, identify critical habitats and species, and evaluate the effectiveness of conservation interventions. Moreover, studying the interactions between species and their environment can help us understand the ecological processes that maintain ecosystem function and services, such as nutrient cycling, water regulation, and climate regulation—all of which are critical to our survival.
In the historic UN Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal, Canada, where the newest set of global biodiversity targets were adopted, key players from almost 200 nations recognised the need for scientific research and effective biodiversity information sharing and management in the achievement of the global vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050. Goal D of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework identified technical and scientific cooperation, and access and sharing of knowledge and technology, as crucial tools in realising these targets, bolstered by financial resources and capacity development.
Why invest in science and knowledge management for nature? In order to achieve sustainability, we must be able to strike a balance among the different pillars of sustainable development. We need to develop a shared value for biodiversity, from which we derive a substantial amount of our commercial products and services. Without a better understanding of these nature dependencies, policy decisions and actions will likely be skewed towards immediate economic benefits, with less consideration for harmful environmental and social implications. Studies on thresholds and carrying capacities will help decision-makers come up with sound strategies towards economic growth while ensuring that the health of our biodiversity and ecosystems is intact for our well-being, and to sustain our livelihoods and businesses.
Biodiversity research likewise supports the development of technologies and biodiversity-based products that can contribute to innovations towards enhancing and developing various industries such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, handicrafts, renewable energy, and tourism and travel, among others. Studying the evolutionary history and biochemical compounds in our natural environment, for instance, can help us identify solutions for improving crop productivity or develop disease-resistant varieties and other new and adaptive alternatives.
In the face of the climate crisis, nations should be able to harness their natural wealth as part of the solutions to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Knowledge generated from research to measure the capacities of intact ecosystems to sequester carbon, regulate temperature, or increase resiliency against floods and droughts will expand our options for climate action to include cost-effective, nature-based measures.
Biodiversity knowledge sharing in the ASEAN region
In order to meet the global biodiversity targets and to ensure that the world is coming up with the right and viable solutions, the initial step is to know the true state of its biodiversity. This calls for the need for up-to-date and accurate biodiversity information across nations and regions, knowledge-sharing platforms, and a strong network of biodiversity experts, scientists, and knowledge holders.
In the ASEAN region, biodiversity data is made accessible for decision-making, policy development, and monitoring purposes through the ASEAN Clearing-House Mechanism (ASEAN CHM). The ASEAN-CHM is a website that serves as the gateway to all available biodiversity-related information in the region. It is a system that provides biodiversity-related information and capacity-building guides and tools to aid the ASEAN Member States in their conservation planning, monitoring, and decision-making. It also highlights regional status of species and protected areas and other regional analyses that can be used as bases for species and protected area prioritisation and conservation.
In concert with the ASEAN CHM, is the ASEAN Biodiversity Dashboard. It is an interactive, online platform for visualising trends and geographic variation in biodiversity indicators. The ASEAN Biodiversity Dashboard aims to bridge the gap between data and decision-making, by presenting biodiversity data in more dynamic, meaningful patterns that can spur informed and more positive, impactful action. Another knowledge-sharing platform on environment-related topics and issues is the ASEAN Environment Knowledge Hub hosted by the ASEAN Secretariat.
Thus, to invest in our planet also means investing in research towards a better understanding of the potential of our biodiversity to solve current global challenges. To invest in our planet is also to invest in the development and use of practical tools and technologies that help measure and highlight the contribution of biodiversity to our economy, well-being and survival. And so it is hoped that through investments in knowledge and knowledge-sharing in the region, we can develop a common appreciation for nature and biodiversity that will drive us to decide and act responsibly in order to reap a better and more resilient future for the ASEAN community and for the world.
Happy Earth Day!