Watch Sir David Attenborough on why we need nature
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.
The main authors were:
- Yadvinder Malhi CBE FRS, Professor of Ecosystem Science at the University of Oxford and Chair of the Royal Society Steering Group on Biodiversity
- Andrew Balmford FRS, Professor of Conservation Science, University of Cambridge and member of the Royal Society Steering Group on Biodiversity
- Sir Ian Boyd FRS, Professor, School of Biology, University of St Andrews and member of the Royal Society Steering Group on Biodiversity
- Sandra Díaz ForMemRS, Professor of Community and Ecosystems Ecology, National University of Córdoba and CONICET, Argentina and member of the Royal Society Steering Group on Biodiversity
We would also like to thank the following for their contribution in reviewing the answers:
- Alex Burch, Director of Public Programmes, Natural History Museum and member of Royal Society Public Engagement Committee
- Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge
- Carlos Frenk CBE FRS, Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics, Durham University and Chair of the Royal Society Public Engagement Committee
- Dilys Roe, Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), Natural Resources Group, International Institute for Environment and Development
- Hannah Taylor Lewis, Science Media Centre