At its simplest, biodiversity describes life on Earth – the different genes, species and ecosystems that comprise the biosphere and the varying habitats, landscapes and regions in which they exist. The Earth is losing biodiversity at rates not seen in human history. Following the success of the Royal Society’s Climate Change: Evidence and Causes and GM Plants: questions and answers, the Society decided to produce a similar document on biodiverstiy, identifying questions from the public and then answering them as accurately and as dispassionately as possible.

To identify the questions, we looked at the most popular questions asked online and questions asked by members of the public at the Society’s You and the Planet event on biodiversity.

The answers to the questions were written by a group of experts who have endeavoured to ensure the answers are factual, as much as possible, and not associated with any value judgement. The aim was not to present comprehensive reviews with scientific details, but instead to provide succinct accounts that will be accessible to non-scientists.

The Royal Society has also published a statement, Biodiversity – evidence for action (PDF), that sets out an overarching strategy and vision for biodiversity and has also commissioned a series of essays from global experts in fields as diverse as conservation, ecology, environmental change, economics and population. They are intended to stimulate discussion on the problems and potential solutions to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity.

The questions and answers given here are intended to provide a resource to those who are interested in what biodiversity is, the threats it is facing to give some insight into what we can do to tackle biodiversity loss.