What are the disadvantages of biodiversity

Biodiversity & human wellbeing

context - Biodiversity, or biodiversity, contributes to human wellbeing in many areas: for example, it supplies raw materials and promotes health. However, human activity often causes irreversible loss of biodiversity, and has done so more quickly than ever in the past 50 years.

What are the factors responsible for this rapid decline in biodiversity? What would have to be done to slow this trend considerably?

Latest update: June 15, 2007

1. What is biodiversity? Where is she? And why is it important?

1.1 Biodiversity is an expression of the number, diversity and variability of living organisms. It describes the diversity within species, the diversity between species and the diversity of ecosystems. The term also describes how this diversity changes over time and space. Indicators, such as the number of species in a given area, can help track certain aspects of biodiversity. More in English

1.2 Biodiversity is everywhere, both on land and in water. The term refers to all organisms, from microscopic bacteria to more complex plants and animals. Current species inventories, while useful, are still incomplete. They are not enough to create an accurate picture of the spread and distribution of all components of biological diversity. With today's knowledge of changes in biodiversity over time, rough estimates of the rate at which species are extinct can be made. More in English

1.3 Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans derive from ecosystems. Biodiversity plays an important role in the way ecosystems function and in the many services they bring to people. Such services include, but are not limited to, nutrient and water cycles, soil formation and maintenance, resistance to invasive species, pollination of plants, climate regulation and control of pests and pollution. For ecosystem services it is important which species are abundant in the ecosystem and how many species are present. More in English

2. Why is the loss of biodiversity a concern?

Biodiversity provides people with many important benefits that go beyond the mere supply of raw materials. More in English

2.1 The loss of biodiversity has negative effects on many aspects of human wellbeing, such as food and energy security, vulnerability to natural disasters and access to clean water and raw materials. It also affects human health, social relationships and freedom of choice. More in English

2.2 Society tends to have multiple contradicting goals, many of which are dependent on biodiversity. When humans change an ecosystem in order to improve one of its services, this often has an impact on other ecosystem services. For example, measures to increase food production can result in less water being available for other purposes. Such balancing processes have worsened the health of many services, such as fishing stocks, water supplies, and protection from natural disasters. In the long run, the value of lost services could be many times as much as the short-term economic gains made by changing ecosystems. More in English

2.3 In contrast to goods that are bought and sold for money, many ecosystem services do not have open prices because they are not traded on the market. As a result, financial markets ignore the importance of biodiversity and natural processes to human well-being. New methods are used to attribute monetary values ​​to certain services such as recreation or clean water. The deterioration in the state of ecosystem services could be markedly slowed or even reversed if the full economic weight of these services were included in the decision-making process. More in English

2.4 Over the past century, some people have benefited from the transformation of natural ecosystems and the increase in international trade. Others, however, have suffered the consequences of biodiversity loss and limited access to vital resources. Changes in ecosystems harm many of the world's poorest people, who are least able to adapt to these changes. More in English

3. What are the current developments in biodiversity?

Human activity has dramatically changed nearly all of the earth's ecosystems, and ecosystems continue to be transformed for agricultural and other uses.

Biodiversity losses and the associated changes in the environment are happening faster than ever before in human history, and nothing suggests that this process is slowing down. Many animal and plant populations have declined, be it in number, geographical spread, or both. Species extinction is a natural process in the history of the earth. Human activity has accelerated species extinction by at least a hundredfold compared to the natural rate.

It is not easy to compare the different measures of biodiversity loss. The speed with which one aspect of biodiversity, for example species richness, changes is not necessarily reflected in another aspect, such as the loss of habitats. In addition, certain aspects of biodiversity are not easy to measure, such as the fact that the same species are increasingly found in different places on earth and that biodiversity as a whole is decreasing.

The WWF Living Planet Index shows the decline in wild animal and plant populations. More in English

4. Which factors lead to biodiversity loss?

4.1 The rapid loss of biodiversity is due to factors such as changes in land use, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation and pollution. These natural or human-induced factors - called drivers - influence and reinforce each other. More in English

4.2 Although changes in biodiversity are more clearly attributable to direct drivers, such as habitat loss, the changes are also related to indirect drivers, which are the cause of many changes in ecosystems. The main indirect drivers are changes in human population, economic activity and technology, as well as socio-political and cultural factors. More in English

4.3 Various direct drivers have been of crucial importance for various ecosystems over the past 50 years. For land-based ecosystems, for example, changes in land cover, such as the conversion of forest to fields, were the main drivers. In marine systems, on the other hand, fishing - especially overfishing - was the main driver of biodiversity loss. More in English

4.4 Overall, the main factors that lead directly to biodiversity loss are habitat changes such as the fragmentation of forests, invasive alien species that settle and spread outside their usual habitat, overexploitation of natural resources and pollution, especially through overfertilization, excessive nutrient levels in the soil and Water. More in English

4.5 Recent climate changes have already had a noticeable impact on biodiversity and ecosystems in certain regions. With the future intensification of climate change, the harmful effects on ecosystems are expected to outweigh possible benefits such as longer growing season in most regions of the world. Climate change is expected to increase the risk of species extinction, floods, droughts, population declines and disease outbreaks. More in English

4.6 Many drivers with an impact on biodiversity are stronger today than in the past and occur collectively. Exposure to one threat often makes one species more susceptible to further threats, and therefore these multiple threats could have unexpectedly dramatic effects on biodiversity. Drivers of species extinction can have an impact on both local and global levels and have immediate to long-term consequences. For example, habitat loss can lead to extinction very quickly in one species, while it could take hundreds of years for other species. More in English

5. Which changes in biodiversity do different plausible future scenarios envisage?

5.1 The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has developed four plausible scenarios to examine the future of biodiversity and human well-being through 2050 and beyond. The various scenarios assume either increasing globalization or increasing regionalization, and either reactive or active handling of environmental problems. More in English

5.2 Overall, all four scenarios envisage that the agricultural area will expand while the forest area will shrink, especially in developing countries. This leads to further losses of local and global biodiversity, mainly resulting in habitat loss. A more active handling of environmental issues will be more successful in curbing these tendencies. More in English

5.3 Aquatic biodiversity and certain fish stocks are expected to decline due to nutrient oversupply, overfishing, invasive alien species and pollution. More in English

5.4 Loss of biodiversity has both direct and indirect effects on human wellbeing. Direct consequences are, for example, an increased risk of sudden environmental changes such as a collapse of fish stocks, floods, droughts, forest fires and diseases. Human well-being is also indirectly impaired by changes, for example by conflicts over scarce food and water resources.

Although the median income per person (GDP) will increase in all scenarios, this can hide an increase in inequalities, for example in the area of ​​food security. Core decisions have to weigh competing goals such as agricultural production versus water quality or water use versus aquatic biodiversity and find compromises. Policies that conserve biodiversity also promote greater overall human wellbeing by preserving the many benefits that ecosystems offer. More in English

6. What measures can be taken to preserve biodiversity?

6.1 Protected areas are an important part of any nature conservation program, but they alone are not enough to preserve all of biological diversity. In addition, protected areas are sometimes difficult to enforce. Careful location of protected areas is important to their success by ensuring that all regional ecosystems are represented and that the areas are well planned and managed. More in English

6.2 Market instruments such as direct payments for ecosystem services or a transfer of property rights to private individuals can create economic incentives to conserve biodiversity and use ecosystem functions in a sustainable manner. More in English

6.3 Prevention and early intervention have proven to be the most successful and cost-effective strategies invasive species to fight. Once an invasive species has established itself, chemical control or the introduction of other species to contain or eradicate it is not necessarily effective, and is particularly difficult and costly. More in English

6.4 To preserve biodiversity, it needs to be included in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors. These sectors are directly dependent on biodiversity and have a direct influence on it. The private sector can make a significant contribution, for example by using certain agricultural practices. Many companies are now showing a greater sense of responsibility and are preparing their own action plans for biodiversity. More in English

6.5 Strong institutions at all levels are indispensable to support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of ecosystems. International agreements must include enforcement mechanisms and take into account both effects on biodiversity and possible synergies with other agreements. Most direct measures to halt or slow biodiversity loss need to be taken at the national or local level. Appropriate laws and regulations can empower local levels of government to create incentives for sustainable resource management. More in English

6.6 The greatest benefits for society can be achieved when the public is informed about the benefits of biodiversity conservation and trade-offs between different choices are considered in an explicit and integrated way. Ecosystem restoration is generally far more expensive than protecting the original ecosystem, but it is becoming increasingly important as more and more regions deteriorate. More in English

6.7 Direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss must be addressed in order to better protect biodiversity and ecosystem services. Possible measures include the abolition of harmful subsidies, the promotion of sustainable intensification of agriculture, adaptation to climate change, limiting the increase in nutrient levels in water and soil, assessing the economic value of ecosystem services and more transparent decision-making processes. More in English

7. Can the 2010 biodiversity target be achieved?

In 2002, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss at global, regional and national levels by 2010, as a contribution to the fight against poverty and the well-being of life on earth.

With the help of appropriate measures, it is possible within this timeframe to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss for certain sub-areas of biological diversity and for certain regions.

However, a successful reduction in the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 is unlikely. Current trends show no signs of a slowdown in biodiversity loss and direct drivers such as land use changes and climate change are expected to continue to increase. In addition, it can take years before institutions take action and before positive and negative effects of human activity on biodiversity and ecosystems become apparent.

Since changes take place in different time frames, it is necessary to set long-term goals as well as short-term goals - for example for the year 2050 - as guidelines for strategies and measures.

Even for purely economic reasons, there are significant reasons to better protect biodiversity. Ultimately, however, the level of biodiversity that will persist on earth will not only be determined by tradeoffs, but also by ethical considerations. Tradeoffs between promoting human wellbeing and limiting biodiversity loss will likely be necessary, although synergies are also possible. More in English

8. Conclusion

On the subject of biodiversity, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlights a number of key findings. More in English

8.1 Result 1: Human actions often contribute to irreversible losses of the diversity of life on earth. Biodiversity has been lost faster in the last 50 years than ever before in human history. This is likely to continue at the same pace or even faster. More in English

8.2 Result 2: Biodiversity contributes directly or indirectly to many aspects of human well-being, for example by providing raw materials or contributing to human health. During the last century, many people have benefited from the conversion of natural ecosystems for agricultural purposes and from the exploitation of biodiversity. However, these changes have exacerbated poverty within some social groups. More in English

8.3 Result 3: Although many individuals benefit from activities that lead to biodiversity loss and ecosystem changes, the overall costs to society are often higher than the profits. This became clear through better assessment techniques and an increasing knowledge of ecosystems. Even if the benefits and costs of changing ecosystems are not fully understood, the application of the precautionary principle may be justified when the costs are high or the changes are irreversible. More in English

8.4 Result 4: Factors such as habitat change, climate change as well as population growth and increasing consumption will continue to contribute to biodiversity loss and changes in ecosystem services, which will take place at the current rate or even faster. More in English

8.5 Result 5: Many of the measures that have been taken to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity have successfully limited biodiversity loss. Overall, biodiversity is being lost more slowly today than it would have been without the action of communities, NGOs, governments and corporations. In order to achieve further progress, it will be necessary - if not sufficient - to strengthen a number of measures, the main ones being the preservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services. More in English

8.6 Result 6: Unprecedented additional efforts would be required to achieve a substantial slowdown in biodiversity loss by 2010 at all levels. More in English