Why biodiversity is important to us

This Wednesday starts in Montréal the biweekly 15th World Summit on Nature. The project “The Debate” has set out to classify the different interests and negotiation fronts through a series of articles and interviews. This is the first post.

About a million species of animals and plants are threatened with extinction worldwide, according to a report by the World Biodiversity Board (IPBES). Scientists are already talking about the beginning of the sixth mass extinction. In the discussion, however, the loss of biodiversity is much less present than the climate crisis. However, the “Biodiversity Day” on November 16 at the World Climate Conference in Egypt shows that the climate and biodiversity crises belong together. “We can only achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement with healthy ecosystems and their contribution to climate protection,” explained the Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke there in her speech.

Both climate change and the decline in biological diversity have highly problematic effects for us humans. That is why government representatives from all over the world will meet again from December 7th to 19th for the global biodiversity conference (Cop15), the world summit on nature. The aim is to reach new, global agreements to protect biodiversity.

Biodiversity is existential

The term “biodiversity” refers to the diversity of all living organisms, the diversity within and between species, and the diversity of ecosystems. Biodiversity loss describes the decline in this diversity and the destruction of ecosystems.

A well-known example of the loss of biological diversity is insect mortality. the “Krefeld Study” has shown that the biomass of flying insects has dropped by 75 percent in 27 years. But fish stocks are also steadily declining: 2015 was the case a third of marine fish stocks as overfished. A lesser-known but equally worrying loss can be found underground: microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria convert animal and plant biomass and thus supply the soil with nutrients. When they decrease, soils are less fertile – both for other organisms and for food.

“The air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink comes from nature,” clarifies Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaesedirector of Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, the relevance of diversity for us humans. She considers this negative trend to be problematic: “Biodiversity is our livelihood.”

Biodiversity is existential because nature provides us humans with goods free of charge – so-called ecosystem services. These can be material services, such as drinking water, cultural services such as recreational opportunities, and regulatory services, such as carbon storage or climate regulation.

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