Loss of natural habitats has been taking place over thousands of years, but scientists are confident that we have ways to help biodiversity recover. Global efforts so far have been insufficient. We must produce food much more efficiently using less land and with less waste. We must also change how and where we urbanise and industrialise landscape and the ocean, and how we produce energy. Paying more attention to the multiple values of nature, including placing a financial value on nature, might also help us to avoid losing more biodiversity.
The world’s nations could improve the situation at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to be held in Kunming, China. Ours is the first generation that understands in detail the damage that it is causing to biodiversity – and the last with the time to make a difference.
Growing populations and the even faster growing rates of consumption are a major threat to biodiversity. Half of the Earth’s ice free and otherwise habitable land is now occupied by cropland and pastures, and it is estimated that half of the species at risk are threatened by agriculture. We need new ways of farming, using land for different purposes. Exactly how we do that is currently much debated.
Deforestation, often linked to agriculture, is also a major problem, bringing about the destruction of habitats. It is essential to protect forests. A growing threat is climate change, which is both driven by and drives biodiversity loss. Reducing emissions and absorbing carbon will be an essential route to reducing biodiversity loss. Nature-based solutions for climate change include methods which could enhance biodiversity at the same time as tackling climate change.
We will also need new ways to value and account for nature that put a price on its destruction so that we take this into account when assessing the overall cost and value of what we produce. We also need a global monitoring network that allows us to hold countries to account for failures to tackle biodiversity loss.
And finally, we need to do more to support the Indigenous peoples and local communities on whose land biodiversity is thriving, but who are struggling to protect it against the pressures of external developers and extractive industries. Strengthening their land rights will help protect them as well as protecting biodiversity.
To find out more; Preserving global biodiversity requires rapid agricultural improvements | Royal Society; Plural valuation of nature matters for environmental sustainability and justice | Royal Society; The economics of biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review | Royal Society
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.introduction
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.Read the full answer
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.Read the full answer
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.Read the full answer
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.Read the full answer
Every year thousands of previously unknown species are discovered, described and named.Read the full answer
Biodiversity loss has been most pronounced on islands and in specific locations around the tropics.Read the full answer
Compared to the 1.6 million species known about on Earth, the number of recorded extinctions can seem very low.Read the full answer
The UK boasts more than 70,000 known species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms.Read the full answer
Humanity impacts the planet's biodiversity in multiple ways, both deliberate and accidental.Read the full answer
Since the middle of the 20th century, the human population has grown dramatically.Read the full answer
The environmental changes being driven by climate change are disturbing natural habitats and species in ways that are still only becoming clear.Read the full answer
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.Read the full answer
Loss of natural habitats has been taking place over thousands of years, but scientists are confident that we have ways to help biodiversity recover.Read the full answer
While large scale changes in behaviour, policies and measures will be essential, individuals have a vital part to play.Read the full answer
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.Read the full answer
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.Read the full answer
Find the main authors and reviewers of the questions and answers on biodiversity.See more