The findings of the latest IPBES [1] report show that not only biodiversity loss is accelerating, but it also affects soil health, food security and human life.

What is the link between biodiversity and land? What are the consequences of intensive agricultural practices on land, species and ecosystems? Here are 6 things you need to know about biodiversity, agriculture and solutions that can help reverse the trend.

 

1. Biodiversity is essential for food security and agriculture

Biodiversity for food includes all plants and animals that are part of crop, livestock, wild species, forest or aquaculture systems. It also includes what is known as “associated biodiversity”, in other words all the plants, animals and micro-organisms such as: insects, bats, birds, mangroves, corals, worms, fungi and bacteria that are present in the soil. They are essential for maintaining soil fertility, but also polinise plants, purify water and air, as well as combat breed, fish, trees and plants illnesses.

In total, soil contains ¼ of the global biodiversity and is essential for food security and healthy environments.

2. Biodiversity loss is a threat for food security, ecosystems and species

Conclusions from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are clear: soil biodiversity loss is under threat in all regions of the world. Intensive agricultural practices to feed a fast-growing global population have led to 75% of the global land surface being significantly altered.

Many key components of biodiversity for food and agriculture at genetic, species and ecosystem levels are in decline. For instance, 26% of livestock breeds are threatened with extinction.

3. 1/3 of fish stocks are overfished

Intensive agricultural practices are also affecting water ecosystems. Nearly 1/3 of fish stocks are overfished and 1/3 of freshwater species assessed are considered threatened. According to the Living Planet Index, 84% of freshwater species have declined since the 1970s.

4. Insects and soil organisms are declining, threatening soil health

While they are essential for soil health and provide vital ecosystem services, many species, including pollinators, soil organisms are in decline. 17% of vertebrate pollinator species are threatened with extinction at global level, because of overexploitation, degradation of habitats and pollution.

5. 20% of the world’s mangrove area has been degraded

Key ecosystems that are vital not only for food and agriculture, but also for protection against storms, floods and other extreme weather events are under global threat. 20% of the world’s mangrove area has declined between 1980 and 2005. While it is estimated that 70% of inland and 60% of coastal wetlands are estimated have been lost since 1900.

6. We need urgent and large-scale action 

According to the IPBES experts, even if conclusions about biodiversity loss are alarming, it is still time to implement solutions. But we must act fast, efficiently and at scale to reverse the trend. Fighting biodiversity loss will need collective action from governments and private companies to tackle the sources of deforestation and ecosystems degradation, in order to build the transformative path towards a more sustainable food and agricultural models. Biodiversity protection also relies on collective commitment for defining business and low carbon consumption models, in all sectors.

The new OP2B coalition launched yesterday at the Climate Action Summit of the United Nations, demonstrates the effort of major private companies joining forces to act for biodiversity preservation, soil health and key natural ecosystems.

[1] The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Key figures on biodiversity loss from FAO

Key figures on biodiversity loss, source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

 

Photo credits: Lionel Charrier/Livelihoods Venture.

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