"In this International Year, we must counter the perception that people are disconnected from our natural environment ... in 2010, I call on every country and each citizen of our planet to engage in a global alliance to protect life on Earth.”
Various UN initiatives report that as natural systems, such as forests and wetlands, are destroyed, natural processes such as the purification of air and water are lost - along with the materials they provide and the protection they afford from extreme weather events.
"The variety of life on Earth is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and vital services our lives depend on"
head of Convention on Biological Diversity
A large on-going UN-sponsored study into the economics of biodiversity suggests that deforestation alone costs the global economy around $2.5 trillion each year.
And some biologists say the rate of species loss has begun the Earth's sixth great extinction, the previous five stemming from natural events such as asteroid impacts.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, told journalists that though the general trend is worrying, he was confident significant change could be made.
“Humans are part of nature's rich diversity and have the power to protect or destroy it ... the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on.
"Human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate. These losses ... impoverish us all and damage the life support systems we rely on every day. But we can prevent them.”
After the official launch of the campaign in Berlin, the first major event of the Year begins on January 21 in a high-profile meeting at the Paris headquarters of Unesco, which is expected to bring together heads of state and their representatives.
More events will follow throughout the year in cities around world such as Trondheim, New Delhi, Doha, Cartagena, Shanghai and Nairobi.
The Year culminates in a high-level meeting at UN headquarters in New York at the start of the General Assembly's 65th annual General Debate in September and an official closing in Kanazawa, Japan, in December.