What is Biodiversity?

What is biodiversity?

Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity defines biological diversity (biodiversity) as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.” In other words, biodiversity collectively refers to the variety and variability of species and their ecosystems and genes.

  • Species

    Species diversitySpecies diversity means the variety of species of plants, animals and microorganisms. It reflects the level of species richness in a given area and their taxonomic diversity.

  • Ecosystem

    Ecosystem diversityEcosystem diversity means the variety of different ecosystems, such as deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers and agricultural landscapes. It also encompasses the multiplicity of interactions between all living and non-living components within one ecosystem.

  • Genetic

    Genetic diversityGenetic diversity refers to genetic differences within each species, including a variety of populations within the same species or genetic variations within the same populations.

What is the value of biodiversity?

The loss of biodiversity is a threat to human culture and wellbeing, as well as the survival of humanity. Biodiversity has long been a source of food, clothing, shelter, medicine and industrial products for humans. At one point, virtually all drugs were derived from plant and animal sources. It is estimated that 25% of prescription drugs in the U.S. contain plant-derived compounds, and over 3,000 antibiotics come from microorganisms. Nearly 5,100 species of plants and animals are used in traditional Asian medicine. The value of biodiversity is particularly evident in agriculture, where breeders and farmers traditionally crossbreed different varieties to improve productivity and use genetic biodiversity to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Biodiversity plays a key role in the absorption and degradation of pollutants, the subsequent purification of air and water, and the stabilization of soil fertility and the Earth’s climate.

How serious is biodiversity loss?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that polar, temperate and tropical regions harbor 1 to 2%, 13 to 24% and 74 to 84% of the Earth’s species, respectively. Tropical forests cover less than 7% of the Earth’s land surface, but they are thought to host roughly half of the world’s species. Mostly found in developing countries, tropical forests are facing degradation at an unprecedented rate due to economic development. By 1985, there was an annual loss of 0.6%, or 11.2 million hectares of tropical forests. In 1990, the annual deforestation rate was 1.5 to 2 times higher than the 1981 level. If the trend continues at this rate, it may pose a serious threat to the survival of humanity.