The great global challenge of protecting biodiversity
There are people with light eyes, with dark eyes; with curly hair, with straight hair; with freckles, with separated lobes… We are very diverse and we owe it all to our genes. The most fascinating thing is that just as with people, we see variety in plants and animals and, together, we form a big puzzle called the ecosystem.
Like a great invisible web, each of the pieces that make up our ecosystem depends on the others: the entire surface of the Earth is a series of connected ecosystems, from oceans to valleys to streams to deserts. And the effect of any one change, such as increasing the Earth’s temperature by just one degree, is like a domino that can influence an ecosystem on the other side of the planet, with very different characteristics. Our ecosystems depend on each other in unexpected ways because biodiversity is a thread that connects us all.
Our well-being and our life on earth depend on it
Thanks to biodiversity, we breathe clean air, drink fresh water, grow crops in productive soils, and benefit from the pollination of crops that provide us with a variety of fruits and vegetables. In other words, biodiversity is the web of life on which we depend for so much, including food, medicine, a stable climate and economic growth. So much so that more than half of the world’s GDP relies on nature (Source: United Nations).
And the result of the equation is always the same: poor people are the most vulnerable. According to the United Nations, 80% of the needs of the world’s poor are linked to biological resources, including their ability to farm and generate income. If we continue on this path, we will soon reach a point where the world’s most vulnerable people will be unable to adapt to climate change and produce food sustainably.
No, biodiversity can wait no longer
The biodiversity we see today is the result of 4.5 billion years of evolution and will take another many years to recover. Over time, humans have increasingly influenced it to a rate of change in nature unprecedented in human history: the planet is suffering the greatest loss of life since the time of the dinosaurs. Already one million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction, many of which will become extinct within a few decades.
According to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 33% of aquatic resources are overexploited, 70% of the ice-free land surface has been intervened by humans, and 17% of vertebrate pollinators and 26% of local livestock species are at risk of disappearing.
A historic agreement in favor of nature
The United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity (COP 15), an event that brought together 188 countries to address the problem of biodiversity and restore ecosystems, has just ended in Montreal. The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework on the last day of negotiations, a commitment to concrete actions to halt and reverse the loss of nature, including the protection of 30% of the planet and 30% of degraded ecosystems by 2030. Through this Framework, countries committed to ensure that there is no further acceleration in the rate of species extinction worldwide, which is already tens if not hundreds of times higher than the average over the last ten million years (more information here).
Biodiversity is essential for the future of food
In the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) argues that the solution lies in conserving and sustainably using genetic resources and drawing on nature-based solutions to produce the food we need.
Biodiversity depends on how we use our agrifood systems and our capacity to care for nature: we just need to change our perspective and use the invisible network that unites us in favor of the planet.
Agriculture and the state of the soil
According to the United Nations, the main driver of biodiversity loss is land use related to food production. However, agriculture is also an effective tool for soil restoration when managed sustainably. Growing legumes, for example, increases the health of soils by restoring essential nutrients so that other plants can grow in the future.
Biodiversity and nutrition
According to the FAO, we currently know of 7,000 plants that can serve as food, but we only grow 150! Incredible as it may seem, corn, wheat and rice supply almost 60% of our daily protein and calories. The number of crops that support the global agricultural sector is decreasing and the genetic diversity of each of these species is being lost, undermining the resilience of our agri-food systems.
What would happen if we expanded our diet? Simple: we would be encouraging the cultivation of other varieties that could be more nutritious, while “standard” crops lose ground and we give way, for example, to local varieties that have lost ground to intensive production.
Biodiversity and food security
Having a wide variety of crops not only enriches our diet, but also strengthens food security. There are fast-growing varieties that are more or less resistant to drought and high temperatures. Other variables are also important, such as the diversity of soils, the variety of pollinators that help plants reproduce and the diversity of insects (key to keeping pests at bay).
Biodiversity is necessary to ensure our food and nutrition in the future. It must be part of our thinking about nature, human well-being and health, and it must be part of our perspective, our policies and our laws. We are one: if biodiversity suffers, humanity suffers.
Livestock and seeds
We often hear about the extinction of wild species, but what about livestock breeds? According to the FAO, nearly 150 livestock breeds became extinct between 2000 and 2018 alone. When we bet on sustainable livestock, animals act as a means to distribute seeds and circulate nutrients.
Forests and fish!
Did you know that there is a link between forests and fish? When forests are poorly managed, there is more sediment flowing downstream and less freshwater reaching other water sources, such as lakes and oceans. This causes the death of certain types of fish, affecting the 200 million people who depend on fishing. For this reason, among other initiatives, FAO collects and analyzes data on the links between forests and trees and food security and nutrition. Its most recent publication on this topic is The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO 2022).
Our time is now. It’s our chance to take back nature, join #generationrestoration! A UN-driven global restoration movement to recreate a balanced relationship between people and the ecosystems that depend on them.
You may be interested in:
Award-winning initiatives at COP15. UN.
Biodiversity Action Framework for Food and Agriculture. FAO.