RSPB Scotland Policy Officer Erica Mason discusses the International Day of Biodiversity and how lockdown has highlighted the need to treasure our nature.

International Day of Biodiversity: Our solutions are in nature

May 22nd is the United Nations’ International Day of Biodiversity. The theme for this year- Our Solutions are in Nature- surely speaks to the desire to address global warming and the devasting loss of biodiversity in a crucial year for nature. Fully functioning ecosystems require thriving biodiversity and mitigate global warming, so it is no surprise that before the pandemic, governments, industry and third sector organisations all called for some version of ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions.

erica sitting on a log in forest

However, the current pandemic and the measures put in place to address it amplify the theme for the International Day of Biodiversity in a way no one could have foreseen. During the lockdown restrictions, many people have sought solace in nature, experiencing the value that it can play in our individual recoveries, whether in treasured fragments of urban wild space and gardens or the countryside, or in helping to lift our spirits and keep us healthy.

The pandemic has also shone a light on cracks within our society, economy and environment: we all face our own unique challenges and we do not all share the burden of this crisis equally. While some people marvel at the number of bird and bug species they can find in their gardens, others stare out windows at concrete urban views and can only imagine what it would be like to have a park nearby in which to safely exercise and enjoy nature.

The necessary lockdown measures have shown us new ways of living, re-forging lost connections with communities, food systems, and nature and have led many of us to re-imagine the future. As thoughts begin to turn to life after lockdown and long-term recovery, it is critical that nature is at the heart of these discussions.

We know that not everyone has access to nature rich green space, and we know that the biodiversity, essential for both flourishing ecosystems and health-giving green space, is on the decline. Last year, the State of Nature report found that almost 50% of species in Scotland have declined in abundance over recent years. Just as we need nature, nature needs us.

trees against the sky

While many people may have noticed natured popping up in unexpected places due to the lockdown restrictions, we can’t know the effect the restrictions have had on its steep decline. Without proper monitoring and conservation work organisations like RSPB Scotland do, it may be that biodiversity is facing bigger threats from invasive non-native species or disasters like the recent fire at the Tay reed beds. Nature based solutions, such as peatland restoration or managed realignment for flood mitigation, can help to restore nature, tackle climate change and provide many other benefits that will improve our collective wellbeing. Delivering a Scottish ‘nature network’ of bigger, better and more joined up sites for nature can help bring nature back to our cities and towns and help wildlife to move more freely across our landscapes.

Measures like these would foster resilient ecosystems and increase people’s access to nature. As we begin the long work of recovering from the pandemic and creating a safer, healthier world for our children and ourselves, many of our solutions are indeed found in nature.