Darwin day, Darwin year and the Diversity of Life
The Darwin year 2009 is over, but the importance of evolution for life on this planet has not changed. 2010, the year of biodiversity highlights different aspects of evolution and our need to act on what we know.
Darwin Day, Darwin Year
Much publicity has focussed last year on the importance of evolution as a theory for our understanding of biology: Darwin Day annually commemorates Darwin's important contributions and last year was called the Darwin Year to mark the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birthday and 150th anniversary of the publication of his book on the "Origin of Species".
Various websites (e.g. here, here, here and here) provide an overview over the various activities of the Darwin Year, which included many talks (e.g. at Royal Society), many special publications (e.g. Springer, et al. ) and even a song. Evolution@home marked the event with a lecture at Inspace, School for Informatics, University of Edinburgh.
Celebrating Darwin's achievements for a year is excellent, but it is important to realise that the evolutionary processes that Darwin discovered continue to operate even if ignored. These processes generate new species and drive the adaptation of species to new environments. Or not. That is if the environment changes too quickly, species can go extinct. Since man-made changes to the environment have reached extraordinary proportions, the United Nations thought that calling
2010 the International Year of Biodiversity
is a good way to raise awareness about what we are doing to life on our planet. And what we could do. "Biodiversity" is a catchphrase that describes the extraordinary diversity of different species that exist in complex communities on this planet. Nobody knows their exact number, but it is clear that several to many millions of species exist, most of them in tropical rain forests.
We as humans have the power to protect this astonishing diversity of life, but if we are careless, then we can also easily destroy it. That is, destroy much more than has already been irretrievably destroyed. Therefore it is important to raise awareness of biodiversity in general. To make specific progress in protecting biodiversity also requires more attention to specific threats like for example the fact that the rainforest and their biodiversity are diminished by consumer demand for soya.
If you want to know more about the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, you can look at
Long-term contributors to evolution@home know that the current computational projects investigate potential genetic causes for species extinctions, a question that is also of interest for saving endangered species.