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Biodiversity Day focuses on Dry Lands

May 22 is the annual "International Biodiversity Day" in which governments and active environment supporters focus attention on the blessing and challenge of living in a diverse creation.

The United Nations even promotes this day of focus. At the headquarters of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, leaders from around the world are naming 2006 the International Year of Deserts and Desertification.

Forty-seven percent of the Earth's land surface is drylands. This includes semi-arid lands such as the Horn of Africa, savannah landscapes such as the Eurasian steppes and North American Great Plains, and Mediterranean landscapes such as found in Southern California...and the Mediterranean region.

Drylands ecosystems receive very erratic rainfall and as a result are very fragile. Incompatible water usage in these areas reduce the water table and cause vegetation to wither, leading to deserts where fertile, if fragile, fields once flourished.

The government of South Africa launched a plan to guide conservation and management of biodiversity with five primary strategic objectives with five and fifteen year timetables to achieve each one. They will be integrating biodiversity considerations into agricultural, forestry and mining industries.

Biodiversity priorities will be included in guidelines and best practice codes to reduce negative impact on biodiversity. Sustainable production practices will also be encouraged.

The European Commission adopted a policy to help halt loss of biodiversity by 2010. They note that the extinction of plants and animals is an irreversible loss to humanity. By investing in sustainable variety of life, the health of the ecosystems that underpin our well being is at the heart of their strategy.

Europeans are focusing on four key policy areas: biodiversity in the EU, global biodiversity, climate change and the knowledge base. Their 10 priority objectives in these areas address most important habitats and species; actions in the wider countryside and marine environment; making regional development more compatible with nature; reducing impact of invasive alien species, effective international governance; support of biodiversity in international development; reducing negative impacts of international trade, adaption to climate change; and strengthening the knowledge base.

Included in their support is adequate financing, better decision-making, building partnerships, and promoting public education, awareness and participation.

Brazil publicized a list of Brazilian plants and animals that may not be patented or trademarked. Huh?

Brazilian officials and nongovernment partners also established two new reserves in the Brazilian Amazon where logging is prohibited. In another action, Brazil ratified a conservation measure for Albatrosses and Petrels.

The Philippines is committing to restoring biodiversity in degraded habitats, combating desertification, drought and poverty. They are replanting their mangroves and implementing fish sanctuaries, as well as encouraging intercropping by planting fruit bearing trees and high value vegetables on the floor of forest plantations.

Climate change is seen by many as an emerging, unprecedented challenge to all life in drylands. More than one billion people are affected by drought and desertification, and adaptation to climate change will be a matter of survival.

In Algeria, environmental officials organized a biodiversity study day at all mosques and Koranic schools on the impact of "man on nature and his role in its protection."

And what is going on in the US on this international day of environmental concern? I didn't hear a single news story. Hmmm.