Biodiversity sustains life on earth. Terrestrial biodiversity - life on land - covers the variety of living organisms found in plants and animals, their genes, ecosystems and ecological processes. The majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas and are dependent on forests, waters, wetlands, fields and pastures for their livelihoods. Many of these ecosystems and related biodiversity are under threat and poorly managed (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2010).
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) concludes that 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems are degraded or unsustainably used. This directly impacts the livelihoods and well-being of those who depend on these resources for subsistence, security and income. The Convention on Biological Diversity identifies a number of
culprits: growing demand for natural resources, low public investment, poorly defined property rights, and global commodity trade policies that incentivize over-exploitation of resources. Strengthening the rights of poor people over land, resources and ecosystem services is one of the first steps towards sustainable development.
...each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous... Pope Francis (2015)
In addition to terrestrial ecosystem degradation, deforestation and desertification, overexploitation of the earth’s biological resources is resulting in the extinctionExtinction is an absolute term, meaning that no individual of a species remains alive.
more of plant and animal species, which in turn is threatening life on earth. A recent scientific report (Ceballos et al., 2015) concludes that there has been an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, with another mass extinction of species already under way. This acceleration compounds previous estimates by various sources that about 20 to 50 per cent of all living species will become extinct by the end of the current century (Reiter, 2015). A recent study published by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (2016) estimates that due to deforestation, rapid urbanization and new agricultural practices as much as 21 per cent of all plant species are now threatened with extinctionExtinction is an absolute term, meaning that no individual of a species remains alive.
more. This report also stresses how much is still unknown about the interconnections and impacts of flora on local and global ecosystems. It was with a view to averting this imminent global tragedy that Goal 15 was adopted.
But many economic and socioeconomic activities that contribute to poverty reduction depend directly on biodiversity15.1. The Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) estimates that 70 per cent of the world’s poor directly depend on biodiversity resources for as much as 90 per cent of their food, fuel, medicine, shelter and transportation needs. Biodiversity makes an important contribution to industries, providing natural ingredients and genetic resources from which high value added products can be developed, produced and sold. Some important biodiversity-dependent sectors include the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, seed, crop protection, horticulture, cosmetics and personal care, fragrance and flavours botanicals, food and beverage, fashion and tourism industries. Ferreira de Souza Dias (2013) has valued some of these industries: natural cosmetics US$26 billion; natural beverages US$23 billion; and botanical industries US$85 billion. Many other activities are indirectly dependent on biodiversity.
In both rural and urban communities biodiversity plays an important role in creating employment, providing incomes and generating economic growth. For example, 57 per cent of the most prescribed drugs in the United States of America originate from biological resources (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2010). Hence planet, people and prosperity all depend on rich and sustainable biodiversity and related ecosystems.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (2016) estimates15.2 that all biomesA biome is a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat.
more experienced significant changes in land cover between 2000 and 2012, with many losing between 10 and 25 per cent; the smallest changes occurred in temperate grasslands and deserts. The study notes that the biomes with the greatest loss of land cover and vegetation productivity were mangroves and tropical coniferous forests. This is attributed to human activity, most particularly conversion of land for shrimp farming in the case of the former.
For example, Indonesia has lost 30 per cent of its mangrove forests over the past three decades. Similarly, loss of tropical forest is predominantly driven by changes in land use, such as conversion of forest to pasture and farmland. For example, the clearing of forest for oil palm plantations, for logging and to construct fibre plantations to supply paper has been dramatic in South-East Asia. Global tropical forest cover has continuously declined over the past 25 years, with an overall significant decrease in forest area of almost 10 per cent from 1990 to 2015 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2015).