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What can I do as an individual to protect biodiversity?

While large scale changes in behaviour, policies and measures that protect biodiversity will be essential, individuals have a vital part to play. Reducing consumption patterns can start at an individual level through conscious choices about the food we eat, products we buy and services we use. 

Tackling the biodiversity crisis will require cooperation at all levels of society, from intergovernmental agreements down to local community action. Individuals can play their part in creating the institutions and electing leaders who can help to safeguard biodiversity. Reconnecting with nature and encouraging others to do the same can help people to learn more about local ecosystems, respect them and treasure them.

Consumers can have an impact through what they buy and use in their day to day lives. Certain products such as cotton have a disproportionate effect on biodiversity. There is also overconsumption of high environmental footprint meat, especially beef, in many parts of the world. Those with savings and pensions can chose to invest in ways that promote rather than harm biodiversity.

Reducing what we waste and throw away can play a part in lowering pollution levels and the over exploitation of natural resources. Huge amounts of food is wasted and by repairing rather than replacing electrical items, and getting more use out of the clothes we already own, consumers can have a positive effect on biodiversity that could also save us money. Delivering information to consumers about the environmental impact of products is another option. New rules introduced in 2021 in the EU requires manufacturers of electrical goods such as fridges, washing machines and televisions to make them easier to repair - the "right to repair“.

Spending more time in nature can help improve our relationship with it and attach greater value to the habitats around us. Educating children about wildlife and local ecosystems can help to make our connection to the natural world clearer and bring about long-term behavioural changes in future generations.

Individuals can make a difference – some of the things you can do include:

  • Supporting political action committed to protecting and restoring biodiversity
  • Supporting institutions that promote the protection and restoration of biodiversity
  • Support local and regional projects aimed at tackling biodiversity loss
  • Buying fewer products and making sure the products you do buy minimise the impact on biodiversity
  • Investing in ways that promote biodiversity
  • Reducing waste of consumer goods: food, clothes, electrical appliances, etc
  • Recycling
  • Educating children about biodiversity, ecosystems and the threats they face and the opportunities to restore them.

For more on this issue visit: Behaviours for conserving biodiversity | Royal Society; The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review | Royal Society; Why efforts to address climate change through nature-based solutions must support both biodiversity and people | Royal Society; Consumption patterns and biodiversity | Royal Society

Find answers to 16 key questions about biodiversity

  • Introduction

    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. We've answered some of your most popular questions about biodiversity.

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  • What is biodiversity?

    Biodiversity is all the living things on our planet – from the smallest bacteria to the largest plants and animals. So far, we have identified around 1.6 million species but that is probably only a small fraction of the forms of life on Earth.

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  • Why is biodiversity important?

    Biodiversity is essential for the processes that support all life on Earth, including humans. Without a wide range of animals, plants and microorganisms, we cannot have healthy ecosystems.

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  • How do we measure biodiversity?

    There is still much we do not know about the complexity of biodiversity on Earth. There are a number of ways that we measure it, with counting species the most common approach.

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  • What is the scale of biodiversity loss?

    The list of known recent extinctions is still a small fraction of all species on the planet but it is far above prehuman levels and the evidence suggests it is rising fast.

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  • We regularly hear of new species being discovered - does that not offset the loss of existing species?

    Every year thousands of previously unknown species are discovered, described and named.

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  • Where is most biodiversity loss happening and why?

    Biodiversity loss has been most pronounced on islands and in specific locations around the tropics.

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  • Is the rate of biodiversity loss increasing or decreasing?

    Compared to the 1.6 million species known about on Earth, the number of recorded extinctions can seem very low.

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  • What is the state of biodiversity in the UK?

    The UK boasts more than 70,000 known species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms.

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  • How do humans affect biodiversity?

    Humanity impacts the planet's biodiversity in multiple ways, both deliberate and accidental.

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  • How does the growing global population and increasing consumption affect biodiversity?

    Since the middle of the 20th century, the human population has grown dramatically.

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  • How does climate change affect biodiversity?

    The environmental changes being driven by climate change are disturbing natural habitats and species in ways that are still only becoming clear.

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  • How does deforestation affect biodiversity?

    Forests contain some of the richest concentrations of biodiversity on the planet. But between 1990 and 2020, around 420 million hectares of mainly tropical forest has been lost.

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  • What can we do to protect biodiversity?

    Loss of natural habitats has been taking place over thousands of years, but scientists are confident that we have ways to help biodiversity recover.

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  • What can I do as an individual to protect biodiversity?

    While large scale changes in behaviour, policies and measures will be essential, individuals have a vital part to play.

    Read the full answer

  • Can we allow nature to regenerate without intervention?

    Biodiversity loss is a complex issue involving many overlapping processes. While nature can recover when left to do so, it requires dramatic changes in our behaviour for this to happen.

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  • How do we decide what is worth saving or putting our efforts into protecting?

    The value of the natural world can be interpreted in many ways, from their raw economic value to the inherent social, cultural and emotional benefits they provide.

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