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Reversing biodiversity loss

25 June 2021

Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity matters. At its simplest, biodiversity is about living nature or life on Earth - different genes, species and ecologies and, as a consequence, the varying landscapes, regions and habitats in which they exist. 

Biodiversity provides food, water and shelter; influences climate; controls disease; and regulates nutrient and water cycles. Biodiversity is integral to spiritual, cultural, psychological and artistic well-being. Biodiversity also has its own intrinsic worth distinct from human life. Humans are embedded in the natural world, and so a part of biodiversity.

Acting against biodiversity loss

Today, however, the Earth is losing biodiversity at rates not seen in the modern era. Human responses to stop biodiversity decline have been woefully inadequate – with targets missed at both the international and national levels. This represents a significant policy failure.

But there is hope. This year represents an important opportunity for policymakers within the UK and internationally to reflect on and respond to the significant threats to biodiversity. Key policy moments include: 

  • the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 15th Conference of the Parties in Kunming, China  
  • the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, UK  
  • the publication in February 2021 of the independent The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review commissioned by the UK Treasury and led by Partha Dasgupta FRS
  • the G7 leaders’ summit in Cornwall, UK and the publication of a statement on biodiversity loss by the Science Academies of the G7

Exploring the science behind biodiversity loss

To strengthen the scientific evidence base on biodiversity and make this available to policymakers, the Royal Society has 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 essays are available below.

The Royal Society has also published its own statement, drawing on the evidence in the essays, on the major challenges and opportunities for action on biodiversity.

Download the narrative (PDF)

Scientific essays about biodiversity

  • The economics of biodiversity: The Dasgupta review

    By Partha Dasgupta

    Read the essay

  • Plural valuation of nature matters for environmental sustainability and justice

    By Berta Martín-López

    Read the essay

  • Why efforts to address climate change through nature-based solutions must support both biodiversity and people

    By Nathalie Seddon

    Read the essay

  • Past and future decline and extinction of species

    By Christopher N. Johnson

    Read the essay

  • Amazonia’s future: Eden or degraded landscapes?

    By Thomas E Lovejoy

    Read the essay

  • Behaviours for conserving biodiversity

    By R M Cowling

    Read the essay

  • Consumption patterns and biodiversity

    By Jianguo Liu

    Read the essay

  • Demographic trends and policy options

    By John Bongaarts

    Read the essay

  • Emergent and vanishing biodiversity, and evolutionary suicide

    By Simon A Levin

    Read the essay

  • Preserving global biodiversity requires rapid agricultural improvements

    By David Tilman and David R. Williams

    Read the essay

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