Biodiversity: Half of us don't know what it means
National Biodiversity Week starts on Friday of this week (the 19th) and finishes on Saturday of next week (the 27th).
In addition to the special week, biodiversity is being celebrated a lot. May 21 is 'European Natura 2000 Day', May 22 is 'International Biodiversity Day' and 2010-2020 is the United Nations 'Decade on Biodiversity'.
So, what is it; what is biodiversity? Back in 2007 a survey was carried out throughout the European Union. Pollsters asked representative samples of people across all Member States: 'Are you aware of biodiversity?' For analytical purposes people had to pick from three possible answers: I've heard of it and I know what it means, I've heard of it but I do not know what it means, or I've never heard of it.
In Ireland, 52% of people said that they'd never heard of it. The average for all 27 Member States was 35% with a range extending from 11% in the most aware country to 85% in the least aware country.
In Ireland, the sample was made up of 1,000 randomly selected people over the age of 16. Those who said they never heard of the word 'biodiversity' comprised 46% males, 58% females, 53% under 25 years of age and 62% over 65.
The Flash Eurobarometer survey is repeated every three years and the latest data show that the number of people in Ireland who never heard of biodiversity fell from 52% in 2007 to 35% last year. That must be good news. Awareness is growing but that needs to be tempered with the reality that more people are hearing about biodiversity because of habitat loss, species becoming extinct, global warming, etc.
So, what is biodiversity? The word is, of course, a made-up term, a contraction of two words: 'biological diversity'. The term became popular in the 1980s to describe the variety of life forms found in a particular place be it a wood, a rock pool, a bog, a mountain top, etc. Biodiversity might, for example, be very high in an old woodland but, understandably, very low in the carpark of a nearby village.
It won't take you long to think of some place with a high biodiversity not too far from wherever you are located. It may be your local nature reserve, a Coillte open forest, your local beach or town park. Do make a point of going there during National Biodiversity Week to explore, savour, celebrate and enjoy its biodiversity.