Biodiversity – nature as the key to survival | Knowledge & Environment | DW

Biodiversity refers to the entire biological and genetic diversity of all living beings and ecosystems on our planet. Living things include mammals and plants as well as fungi and microorganisms in the soil. The different ecosystems are as different as the Antarctic, the tropical rain forest, the Sahara, mangrove forests, the red beech jungle of Central Europe or the various sea and coastal regions worldwide.

This habitats provide us with many things that we need to live: water, food, clean air or medicines. Ecosystems thus provide so-called ecosystem services – and these also depend on the interaction of the biodiversity away. If individual parts are lost, for example because species are dying out, in the worst case these services of nature will also be lost for us.

How our life depends on the services of nature

In other words: Without algae or trees there is no oxygen. Without insects to pollinate plants, we would hardly be able to harvest anything. Because more than two thirds of all crops, including many types of fruit and vegetables, coffee and cocoa, are dependent on natural pollinators such as insects. But already now is more than a third of all insect species worldwide threatened with extinction.

Although we cannot survive without these services of nature, most of the time we just take them for granted, says Dave Hole. The expert in ecological genetics has co-authored a new study with others for the environmental organization Conservation International, which deals with ecosystem services.

According to this, up to 70 percent of the global harvests are directly or indirectly from intact ones polders and mangroves dependent, among other things because they protect the areas under cultivation for food crops from flooding. “In general, when we eat a bowl of muesli in the morning, we don’t think too much about what nature did to make us eat that muesli,” Hole told DW.

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Global biodiversity is extremely endangered

The World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) estimates that there are at least eight million species, but by 2030 up to a million of them could become extinct forever. Even now, the loss of biodiversityreached extreme proportions – a species dies every ten minutes. According to science, we are in the middle of the sixth global mass extinction of species.

A ranger holds a small Cuban crocodile in his hands

The Cuban crocodile is critically endangered according to the UNCN Red List

In Germany alone it worked number of flying insects between 2008 and 2017 by three quarters. According to IPBES, the population of wild mammals fell by 82 percent worldwide. The number of animal and plant species living in freshwater has declined by 83 percent worldwide in the past 50 years, and in Central and South America the number has dropped by as much as 94 percent, according to one Study by the environmental organization WWF.

And according to Hole, the loss of biological diversity is happening at breakneck speed – the speed is even accelerating.

Humans are responsible for the extinction of species and the loss of nature

Science agrees: Through Agriculture, surface sealing, deforestation, overfishingthe introduction of toxins into nature and the spread of invasive species by humans, the extinction rate is now up to 100 times higher than it would be without human influence.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), made it very clear in the DW interview: “Human actions have led to 97 percent of global biodiversity deteriorating.”

The numbers listed by the CBD boss are frightening. Accordingly, 75 percent of the land area is currently degraded and 66 percent of the oceans, 85 percent of all wetlands are threatened or gone and half of all coral reefs are already dead. Be there littering the planet with plastic not even included in these figures, emphasizes Mrema.

The loss of biodiversity threatens the planet and humanity

“The progressive loss of our natural capital represents the greatest danger for all of humanity,” warns Klement Tockner, director general of the German Senckenberg Society and professor of ecosystem sciences. “Because once lost is lost forever.”

If a species disappears from an ecosystem, the ecosystem does not immediately collapse completely, but it does change. “The more we reduce species, the more susceptible a system becomes to failure,” explains Andrea Perino from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) at the University of Halle-Jena-Leipzig.

Infographic Deforestation in the Amazon

As with the climate, there are also so-called ecosystems tipping points, where events can occur that result in unstoppable development, according to Dave Hole. An example of this is the rainforest in amazon. After the forest was severely cleared, the remaining part is recovering less and less. And that in turn increases the risk that the entire rainforest will die off. In the past decade, the forest has even more CO2 emitted when he recorded, one like that Study.

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Tropical forests like the Amazon are home to around two-thirds of all species known worldwide, and they are extremely important for the global climate.

We must protect nature better – in our own interest

Without massive countermeasureswhich stop the loss of biological diversity, the natural basis of human life will be lost at an unprecedented rate – with long-term consequences for almost all areas of life.

50 percent of global economic output is directly dependent on nature, says CBD Executive Secretary Mrema. “We destroy nature when our income, our food, our health and the air we breathe depend on it.”

Editorial assistance: Tim Schauenberg



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