When it comes to the term “biodiversity” – or “biological diversity” – many people think only of the richness of species and they blend out other aspects. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the term covers much more: “biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems“.
Watch this video of the series ‘One Planet’ ‘to get an idea of the immenseness – and beauty – of biodiversity on our planet.
Agriculture and Biodiversity = Agrobiodiversity
Agriculture and food production are very closely linked to biodiversity. We are only able to feed our ever growing world population tapping into the planet’s biological resources. At the same time, though, the intensification of agricultural production causes massive damage to our natural resources, destroying habitats and ecosystems, leading to irretrievable losses of biodiversity, and adding to the climate change issue.
One aspect, however, is often neglected: the potentially usable diversity of flora and fauna in agriculture, forestry and fisheries – agrobiodiversity. It is this diversity that has enabled us throughout history to produce food even in peripheral regions of human settlement. There are varieties and types of food that are adapted to or are able to adapt to very specific climatic conditions. This aspect is becoming increasingly important, especially in the context of climate change.
Agriculture, forestry and other types of land use are responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. It is again the biological resources that can help reduce emissions from these sources. But also from a nutritional point of view and against the background of the continuing hunger in parts of the world, agricultural diversity is enormously important. The fact is: we need this diversity. But what is happening out there? Seeds are being produced and marketed worldwide by a few large seed companies, providing the same seeds as an answer to varying climatic and soil conditions. How is this supposed to work? It doesn’t work all too well, but this problem is supposedly “fixed” by applying more and more pesticides, artificial fertilizers and irrigation.
We can see, though, that the world’s population cannot be fed sufficiently through the prevailing market system. More than 820 million people around the world are suffering from hunger, and aid supplies of rice and grain are no feasible long term solution to this dilemma. Adapted food systems and a sustainable, resilient agriculture can help – including tapping into but not exploiting the diversity of agricultural resources.
So, the next time we talk about the importance of preserving our biodiversity, let us not forget the agrobiodiversity. The food we eat is strongly linked to the climate and biodiversity on our planet. The figures underneath show the connection of these three – how it is now and how it should be.
– Blog posted by Tanja Ploetz, Senior Programme Manager SCP, Agriculture and Land Use Change, WWF-Germany –