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Facts about biodiversity

Why do we need biodiversity?

Biodiversity is one of the essential fundaments of human life ( German National Strategy on Biological Diversity).

There are numerous ecological, economical, social and ethical reasons why it is necessary to protect and conserve biodiversity.

Ethical reasons

For reasons of social and intergenerational equity, it is our ethical duty to conserve and safeguard biodiversity. This duty is enshrined in the German constitution: “Mindful also of its responsibility toward future generations, the state shall protect the natural bases of life” (Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 20a).

Food and commodities

Plants and animals provide the food we eat. Since agriculture began some 12,000 years ago, about 7,000 species of plant have been cultivated for food. We also obtain many materials and other resources from living organisms (e.g. wood for building and energy).

Ecosystem Services

Every day, we benefit from a wide range of 'services' of nature (and hence of biodiversity): clean air, fresh water, pollination by insects (e.g. bees) and carbon storage (e.g. forests, bogs, soils and oceans), to name only a few. All these ecosystem services are unpaid, but we cannot afford living without them.

Genetic diversity

Genetic information or genetic resources can be put to use in food and medicine. Much effort is directed at exploiting this kind of diversity (e.g. by breeding improved strains of farm animals and plant varieties). The entire spectrum of biodiversity must be conserved for these efforts to succeed.
 ABS Information Platform

Adaptation to changing environmental conditions

A rich genepool ensures that organisms, species and ecosystems are healthy and flexible, so that they can adapt to canging environmental conditions. Especially in time of global climate change it is important to sustain this adaptive potential.
 Biodiversity and Climate Change

Bionics

Plants and animals have inspired many technical inventions. Imitating successful adaptations found in nature can result in lighter yet sturdier structures and help save materials and energy.

Recreation and well-being

Nature and its biodiversity offer a recreational value. Whether we enjoy nature during an evening walk through nearby woodland or during holidays by the sea, nature and the scenic beauty of the landscape due to its biodiversity are highly important to our well-being.

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Where do we find biodiversity?

Biodiversity is everywhere on earth. Every region is home to species and communities of species that are adapted to the respective local environmental and climatic conditions. Every species is valuable and in need of protection. Many species and communities still await scientific discovery.

Major centres of biodiversity, or biodiversity hotspots, with high densities of species, ecosystems and genetic variability include parts of the tropics, oceans and forests.

By far underestimated are traditional cultural landscapes, which are man made and form highly diverse habitats.

Islands form isolated habitats. Hence, they present large numbers of endemics.

Diversity within domestic plants and animals

Äpfel am Baum

Impressing is also the enourmous diversity of domestic plants and animals resulting from thousands of years of selective breeding by mankind. This diversity is threatened today. Of 7,000 plant species cultivated and improved by breeding to provide food over the millennia, only fifteen - alongside eight animal species - provide about 90 percent of human nutrition world-wide today.

"The higher the diversity the better?"

Biodiversity is not only meaningful when it is especially high. Healthy ecosystems are functioning well, because they consist of the correct combination of species. Each region on earth provides certain environmental and climatic conditions suitable for specific species compositions creating the respective ecosystems. Hence, it is not only the number of species that counts but the correct composition of genes, species and ecosystems that keeps a community going.

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What is threatening biodiversity and why?

Biodiversity is threatened by mankind in many ways.

Habitat-deterioration

Direct deterioration of habitats (e.g. urbanisation and infrastructure building, deforestation, slash-and-burn, open-cast mining, draining, overfishing and industrial farming) leads to the loss of global biodiversity.

Overexploitation and degradation

Overexploitation and degradation cause the decrease of biodiversity. Examples are overgrazing, soil erosion, habitat fragmentation, unsustainable harvesting of timber for firewood, pesticide application, ground contamination, water pollution, unsustainable tourism, unsustainable farming, overfishing and unsustainable hunting practices.

Land use change

Biodiversity is often adversely affected when extensively farmed land is abandoned or turned over into intensely farmed land.

Invasive alien species

Deliberate or inadvertent introductions of species outside of their natural range can have severe consequences for habitats and their original biodiversity (e.g. rabbits in Australia, giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam in Germany).

Climate change

When climate changes faster than ecosystems and species can adapt, the result can be extinctions of populations and species. Climate change will probably lead to a heavy decrease in biodiversity.
 Biodiversity and climate change

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Carbon and Biodiversity: a demonstration atlas

Logo: Carbon, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: exploring co-benefits

Funded by BfN and BMU, UNEP-WCMC developed a global Atlas mapping the amounts of carbon stored in below and above ground biomass in natural habitats. Aditionally to carbon the maps display biodiversity. These tools developed by UNEP-WCMC are helpful within planning of protected areas and measurements regarding climate change mitigation.
Internetportal:  Carbon, Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services: Exploring Co-Benefits

IPBES - Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services

IPBES will be an interface between the scientific community and policy makers that aims to build capacity for and strengthen the use of science regarding biodiversity in policy making. It is comparable to the IPCC.

EPBRS - European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy

EPBRS is a forum at which natural and social scientists, policy-makers and other stakeholders identify, structure and focus the strategically important research that is essential to biodiversity and its sustainable use.

Last Change: 16/01/2015

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