The Department of Botany of the University of Karachi (UoK) arranged a one-day seminar on biodiversity: conservation issues and challenges at the Arts Auditorium on Wednesday.
The Director General of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIOPK), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Pakistan, Dr Samina Kidwai while highlighting the marine biodiversity and ecosystems – importance and management systems informed the audience that biodiversity is important for the wellbeing of the planet and contributes in three ways, through keeping ecological stability, economic wellbeing and has ethical importance. All life has a right to exist and it is the current generation’s responsibility that we leave behind a steady and healthy legacy.
She mentioned that the earth is more than 4. 6 million years old and early life began in the aquatic environment and the earliest evidence of life was reported in the hydrothermal ponds of Yellowstone National Park, in the United States of America.
“Ecosystems compose of physical-chemical-biological processes active within a space-time unit and human beings are also part of the earth’s ecosystem. There are roughly 250,000 species reported from the marine ecosystems worldwide, with almost 1.7 million taxonomic names.”
During her talk, Dr Samina Kidwai focused on biodiversity on the planet in general, genetic material, species, and ecosystems, and especially mentioned marine biodiversity, the coastal zones, and ecosystems.
She also talked about the Pakistan coast and shared its main ecosystems. She said that the current decade is designated by the UN as the Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, and stressed the significance of listing species and mapping them.
Another speaker, Naghmana Zafar from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) mentioned that the cause of conservation of biodiversity can be achieved by adopting the principles of a ‘blue economy’ – while the sea is critical for maintaining a balance of life on plant earth, the main focus of addressing biodiversity and conservation challenges should be the oceans and seas.
She shared that ingredients for blue growth are already available in abundance in Pakistan, however, to develop this sector there is a need to enhance the capacity of all stakeholders while also taking along the emerging security needs at national and international levels.
Naghmana Zafar advised that Pakistan should follow European Union integrated maritime policy to build up close cooperation between decision-makers in the different sectors at all levels of government – national maritime authorities, regional and local authorities, and international authorities.
The KU Dean Faculty of Science Prof Dr Samina Bano said that Pakistan is rich in biodiversity as it is home to more than 1, 250 species of plants and animals. However, she mentioned that deforestation, soil erosion, salinity, and waterlogging have become major threats to biodiversity in the country.
“We have a number of the world’s rarest animals and plants but now they are in danger from habitat loss and overuse coupled with the rising population. All species on the earth depend on each other, so by conserving biodiversity, we can conserve life on earth”.
On this occasion, the KU Director Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization Prof Dr Bilquess Gul said that biodiversity is essential for the processes that support all life on earth and without a wide range of animals, plants, and microorganisms because we cannot have the healthy ecosystems without them.
She mentioned that biodiversity conservation is the protection and management of biodiversity to obtain resources for sustainable development. The main objectives are to preserve the diversity of species, sustainable utilization of species and ecosystem, and pressures on biodiversity continue to increase. The key pressures driving biodiversity loss are overexploitation of species, invasive alien species, pollution, climate change, and especially the degradation, fragmentation, and destruction of habitats.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson KU Department of Botany Prof Dr Rubina Abid emphasized the conservation of biodiversity and shared that biodiversity simply is the life present on earth in any form. So, the loss of biodiversity means we are losing a life.
“It’s a well-known fact that plants are the lungs of the earth, they are the first component of the life chain and shelter for many other species and eliminating a single plant from a habitat results in the elimination of birds, insects, and animals that are associated with that particular plant. So, to conserve biodiversity, it is important to conserve plants.”
She expressed that unfortunately with the increase in urbanization and industrialization, we are cutting forests at a fast pace, we are even cutting mountains to make societies in the suburbs of Karachi, and disturbing the natural habitat of various species.
Dr Rubina said that we are declining the environment and causing a great loss of biodiversity. This loss of biodiversity results in climatic change and natural disasters. We can see the change in the climate of our city in the past two decades. The climate of Karachi has converted from temperate to extreme, and recently Pakistan has faced massive floods in its history and faced huge economic and human life loss.
According to her, there may be conflicting goals between different stakeholders involved in conservation efforts, such as between conservationists and local communities who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Climate change is causing significant changes to ecosystems and can make it difficult to protect and conserve biodiversity.
“Poaching and the illegal wildlife trade are significant threats to many species, particularly in developing countries. Invasive species can outcompete and displace native species, leading to the loss of biodiversity.”
Earlier, the seminar organizer, Dr Sadaf Gul highlighted the challenges faced by people who want to conserve biodiversity. She said that creating awareness among local people is essential to achieve the goals, besides taking practical measures by governmental and non-governmental organizations.
She mentioned that addressing these challenges will require a range of approaches, including stronger policies and regulations, increased funding for conservation efforts, improved knowledge and understanding of biodiversity, and collaboration between stakeholders with different interests and goals. “The conservation of biodiversity is a complex and ongoing process that requires ongoing effort and attention.”
She shared that the conservation of biodiversity is important to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of ecosystems and the services they provide. She informed the audience that the Department of Botany is among the eminent departments of the University of Karachi.
Dr Sadaf said that the teachers of botany have completed about 65 research projects with the support of national and international funding agencies, currently, several research projects are in progress. More than 2600 research papers have been published in the journal of international repute by the teachers and researchers of the department.
The seminar was appreciated by the scientists as well as a large number of students. Participants emphasized the need for such programs to be held regularly for awareness purposes.