International Day for Biological Diversity 2023

The International Day for Biological Diversity (Biodiversity) is celebrated on 22 May each year to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for 2023 is “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”. We are happy to share how we are building back biodiversity in a peri-urban area through active rewilding of land, wildlife species and people’s hearts through our legacy project at Nyosi Wildlife Reserve.

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth. It encompasses the diversity of living organisms, their genetic variability and the communities and ecosystems they form. Biodiversity is a measure of the richness and abundance of life at different levels of organization, from genes to ecosystems, and it includes the interactions between different organisms and their physical environment.

Biodiversity and the Web of Life

As UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) states, nature is humanity’s lifeline. The web of life is a metaphorical representation of how all living things are interconnected, with each species playing a vital role in maintaining the balance and functionality of ecosystems. Healthy biodiversity is the foundation of the web of life upon which all species, including humans, depend. Each time we lose a species, we also lose its connections and relationships to other species and ecosystems, effectively creating a gaping hole in the web of life and weakening it.

Space for Species

We believe that preserving biodiversity and empowering communities in urban and peri-urban areas forms an important part of the future of conservation, especially as space continues to become more challenging for wildlife and for people. We see peri-urban reserves as an opportunity to connect even more people with nature, creating conservation ambassadors within communities.

Despite the common perception that cities are mostly devoid of nature, urban areas can support a surprising amount of biodiversity, from insects and birds to small mammals and reptiles and amphibians. Spaces like parks, green spaces and even rooftops can support biodiversity, and in the case of our legacy project at Nyosi Wildlife Reserve, urban nature reserves.

Situated within the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, Nyosi Wildlife Reserve is sandwiched between the two cities of Kariega (Uitenhage) and Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), representing a very special pocket of biodiversity with four unique vegetation types.

Why is urban biodiversity important?

  • It provides opportunities for urban residents to connect with nature and experience its benefits, such as stress reduction, improved mental health, and enhanced well-being.
  • It contributes to the functioning of urban ecosystems and provides a range of ecosystem services, such as pollination, pest control, and carbon storage.
  • It can help support the survival of some species that have been negatively affected by habitat loss and fragmentation in other areas. An example is the cheetah, Africa’s most threatened big cat. Our Cheetah Rewilding Project supports the cheetah metapopulation aimed at preserving this iconic species.

Can urban nature reserves really make a difference?

Yes! Urban nature reserves serve as wildlife corridors and green connections which are important for maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. These are strips of habitat that connect different green spaces within or outside the city, allowing wildlife to move and disperse between them. Wildlife corridors and green connections help to counteract the fragmentation and isolation of urban habitats, allowing species to access food, mates, and other resources.
The creation of wildlife corridors and green connections is particularly important for species that have large home ranges or are highly mobile, such as birds, bats, and some mammals.

Connecting People and Nature

Nature reserves in urban areas can also provide opportunities for research, education, and community engagement. They can be used as living laboratories for studying urban ecology and can provide opportunities for citizen science and community engagement in biodiversity conservation efforts. By involving urban residents in nature reserve management and conservation efforts, nature reserves can also help to promote awareness and appreciation of biodiversity and its importance for human wellbeing.

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