This year’s theme is Island Biodiversity and was chosen to coincide with the designation by the United Nations General Assembly of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States.
Islands and their surrounding near-shore marine areas constitute unique ecosystems often comprising many plant and animal species that are endemic—found nowhere else on Earth. The legacy of a unique evolutionary history, these ecosystems are irreplaceable treasures. They are also key to the livelihood, economy, well-being and cultural identity of 600 million islanders—one-tenth of the world’s population.
Islands harbour numerous discrete ecosystems, from mountain forests to wetlands and beyond, that provide food, fresh water, wood, fibre, medicines, fuel, tools and other important raw materials, in addition to aesthetic, spiritual, educational and recreational values, that support island livelihoods, economies and cultures. Island ecosystems also contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem functions: they provide defence against natural disasters, support nutrient cycling, and soil and sand formation; and they contribute to the regulation of climate and diseases.
Island species are also unique in their vulnerability: of the 724 recorded animal extinctions in the last 400 years, about half were island species. Over the past century, island biodiversity has been subject to intense pressure from invasive alien species, habitat change and over-exploitation, and, increasingly, from climate change and pollution. This pressure is also keenly felt by island economies. Among the most vulnerable of the developing countries, small island developing States (SIDS) depend on the conservation and sustainable use of island biodiversity for their sustainable development.
To have a look at UNEP's Island Bright Spots in Conservation and Sustainability publication, click here.
Gibraltar, although not quite an island, shares a number of ecological characteristics. For example, we have numerous endemic and near endemic species including the beetle Buprestis sanguinea calpetana , the Gibraltar Campion Silene tomentosa, the Gibraltar Candytuft Iberis gibraltarica and the Gibraltar Chickweeed Cerastium gibraltaricum. The Gibraltar Nature Reserve boasts a rich variety of flora, with 363 species recorded within its boundaries. Our Barbary macaques are the only free-ranging monkeys in Europe and are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. The Rock’s cliff habitats provide several bird species with nesting sites, including the Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni. This species is afforded the category of a bird of ‘global conservation concern’ by Birdlife International and is listed under Annex 1 of the EC Birds Directive 79/409/EEC. Gibraltar’s Southern waters (SAC/SPA) have long been recognized as an important marine area with sea cliffs and caves, reefs and sandy sea beds providing valuable habitats. Like other islands across the globe, Gibraltar has also been impacted by the introduction of invasive alien species from areas such as South Africa, Australia and South America. Notable species include the Red-eyed acacia Acacia cyclops and the prickly pear Opuntia ficus-indica.
As with many Islands, the Gibraltarian cultural identity is also deeply embedded with its local environment and we are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, pollution and resource over-exploitation.
Previous Year’s Themes
For further information, please visit the Convention on Biological Diversity.