Biodiversity refers to all varieties of life that can be found on Earth:
- all living species (plants, animals, fungi, micro-organisms and of course, humans);
- their genes are guarantors of diversity within the species;
- their ecosystems, that is how living organisms interact with their environment such as forests, deserts, wetlands and coral reefs, etc.
Biodiversity represents an immeasurable wealth. According to a realistic estimate, there would be 15 million species living on Earth.
Today, biodiversity is undermined. Over the past 50 years, biodiversity loss has been faster than during all other periods of human history.
Since 1973, the CITES Convention has aimed to prevent the extinction of endangered animals and plants. This convention prohibits trade in the most endangered species and very strictly supervises the trade of more than 34,000 kinds of animals and plants.
There are multiple threats to biodiversity:
- fragmentation of habitats;
- the invasive exotic species;
- overexploitation and overconsumption (such as overfishing, for example);
- pollution including pollution from fertilisers and pesticides;
- climate changes.
All these are the result of human activity and have significant effect on the ecosystems. They provide goods and services, called ecosystem services, essential to our human activities, our well-being and the survival of our planet.
The Millennium Ecosystem assessment classifies them as follows:
- Provisioning services: forests, for example, are a source of food, fibre (paper, textile, etc.), energy, quality water, genetic resources, components for medicines and cosmetics, building materials, etc.
- Regulating services: regulating the climate, water and some human diseases, purifying air and water, waste treatment, pollination and seed dispersal, ... A high level of biodiversity also increases the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to climate changes and natural disasters.
- Cultural, social services and various recreational services: namely, social relations, aesthetic values, tourism and recreation, ... Biodiversity is also a source of cultural identity.
- Supporting services (without which all others would not exist): photosynthesis and production of oxygen (air), water cycle, nutrients, bio-geo-chemical components, training, protection and soil enrichment, etc.
Generally, we are not aware of the importance and value of services provided by nature. However, biodiversity is everyone's business. Businesses and consumers also have a role to play in the sustainable use of its resources and services.