What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the foundation of life on Earth. It is crucial for the functioning of ecosystems which provide us with products and services without which we couldn’t live. Oxygen, food, fresh water, fertile soil, medicines, shelter, protection from storms and floods, stable climate and recreation - all have their source in nature and healthy ecosystems. But biodiversity gives us much more than this. We depend on it for our security and health; it strongly affects our social relations and gives us freedom and choice.

Biodiversity is extremely complex, dynamic and varied like no other feature of the Earth. Its innumerable plants, animals and microbes physically and chemically unite the atmosphere (the mixture of gases around the Earth), geosphere (the solid part of the Earth), and hydrosphere (the Earth's water, ice and water vapour) into one environmental system which makes it possible for millions of species, including people, to exist. (IUCN: http://www.iucn.org/what/tpas/biodiversity/about/)

Overview of Marine Biodiversity

70 % of the surface layer of the earth is oceans, which are essential for all life on the planet. These oceans consist of different areas: coastal areas which are heavily affected by the terrestrial areas; the offshore areas which are clean and beautiful with little influence from the terrestrial areas; and cold and high-pressured deep sea where light does not reach. Different environments are formed and various organisms live in these areas. At present, organizations and research institutes around the world collect information on marine biodiversity; however, the collection is sufficient only for very limited areas because of the enormous size of the world oceans.

In 2010, the tenth meeting of the Conference to the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) was held in Nagoya, Japan, and the Aichi Targets were adopted, which included Target 11 : “By 2020, at least ….. 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.” The meeting also adopted information collection activities on ecologically and biologically significant areas (EBSAs) for marine life. Thus, it is expected that more activities and programmes for conserving marine biodiversity will be promoted globally.

Activities of CEARAC

Along with such a global attention on marine biodiversity, CEARAC has launched an activity for promoting assessment and management of the marine environment, aiming to create a favorable marine and coastal environment for marine life, considering CEARAC’s responsibility for assessing and monitoring marine and costal environments.

1. Activities of 2010-2011

CEARAC has worked on development of a new method for assessing land-based impacts and the conditions of the marine environment and marine life. In the developing process, a pilot study was conducted in the Toyama Bay, Japan. The following table shows the outline of the developed assessment method.

Impact from Land Condition of marine environment and marine life
Assessment of Indicators Impact Assessment
- Impact on indicator A: Strong
- Impact on indicator B: Moderate
Impact on indicator C: weak
Designing of target (desirable situation)
Achievement assessment of current condition against target
- Achievement: 100-90%
- Achievement: 90-60%
- Achievement: 60-30%
- Achievement: 30-0%
Assessment of Categories Categories:
- Population and utilization of land area
- Nutrient load
- Other chemical substances
- Meteorological condition
- Appropriate habitat condition for marine life
- Appropriate water quality for marine life
- Threat to marine life
- Condition of marine life
Comprehensive Assessment Clarification of current issues
Recommendation for creating appropriate environment for marine life

Challenges for the future: Lack of useful information on marine biodiversity in the NOWPAP region was revealed through implementation of the pilot study and information collection from relevant states. For accurate assessment of the conditions of the marine environment, it is required to find and harmonize much more information for the future. As the first step to solve this problem, CEARAC will implement an activity, in the 2012-2013 biennium, to collect basic information on the existing marine protected areas (MPAs) in the NOWPAP member states, based on the database on MPAs by NOWPAP DINRAC, and to analyze the current status of them including the monitoring and management status in some selected MPAs. In addition, CEARAC will plan to discuss the possibilities for application of other concepts of sea areas for conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, such as EBSAs in the NOWPAP region.

2. Activities of 2012-2013

CEARAC published “Monitoring and management of Marine Protected Areas in the NOWPAP region” in 2013. This report compiles basic information on the existing MPAs in the NOWPAP member states, including the laws and regulations stipulating the establishment of MPAs as well as the monitoring programs and management practices employed. In addition, the possibility of applying internationally emerging concepts and ideas for marine and coastal biodiversity conservation to the NOWPAP region is also discussed. The information contained in this report is expected to help policymakers in the NOWPAP region to facilitate implementation of policies for the conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity.

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