Biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, mainly due to human activities, such as changes in land use, pollution, and climate change.
Biodiversity is traditionally defined as the variety of life in all its forms. It includes the number of species, their genetic variation and their interaction within complex ecosystems.
Scientists warned in 2019 that one million species, of the estimated total of eight million, are in danger of extinction, many of them could become extinct in a few decades, according to a UN report.
Some researchers even consider that we are in the middle of the sixth process of mass extinction in the history of the planet. The mass extinctions previously known annihilated between 60% and 95% of all species. Ecosystems take millions of years to recover.
Main causes of biodiversity loss
- Changes in land use (for example, deforestation, intensive monoculture, urbanization).
- Direct exploitation such as hunting and overfishing.
- Climate change.
- Invasive alien species.
The importance of biodiversity
Healthy ecosystems give us many essential elements that we take for granted. Plants transform energy from the sun and make it available to other life forms. Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients, providing plants with healthy soil to grow. Pollinators are essential in the reproduction of plants, which guarantees our food production. Plants and oceans act as large carbon sinks. The water cycle depends largely on living organisms.
In summary, biodiversity provides us with clean air, fresh water, good quality soils, and crop pollination. It helps us fight climate change and adapt to it, and reduces the impact of natural hazards.
Since living organisms interact in dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of any species can have a powerful impact on the food chain. It is impossible to know exactly what the consequences of mass extinctions would be for humans, but we do know that for now, the diversity of nature allows us to prosper.
MEPs called on 16 January 2020 for legally binding targets to stop biodiversity loss at the conference that the UN will hold in China in October 2020. The conference brings together the UN Biodiversity Convention of 1993 parties to decide their strategy after 2020.
MEPs are calling for legally binding targets both locally and globally, in order to increase ambitions on biodiversity conservation and restoration. Parliament wants the upcoming EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 to ensure that the EU leads by example
- by ensuring that at least 30 % of EU territory consists of natural areas,
- by restoring degraded ecosystems by 2030,
- by taking biodiversity objectives into account in all EU policies, and
- by earmarking a minimum of 10 % of the 2021-2027 long-term budget for efforts to improve biodiversity.
MEPs also underline the need for more sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, including EU-wide binding reduction targets on pesticide use.