Biodiversity loss impacts our food security

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a detailed assessment report addressing the impact of biodiversity loss on our food resources. The report describes how biodiversity plays a crucial role for the food and agricultural sectors. By identifying different drivers of change of biodiversity, the status and trends are discussed, as well as their results. The report further addresses our current state of biodiversity management and conservation, and how policy frameworks play a critical role. We provide you comprehensive overview of some of the most important conclusions.

Biodiversity dependent food production

The food that we produce and consume, originates from a wide range of different plant and animal species. This variety not only plays an important role for our diet, but also for nature. It contributes to the biodiversity on our planet. Think about domesticated plants and animals for crop, livestock, forest and aquaculture productions. Even wildlife that is hunted for consumption, contributes to our food supply. Yet, biodiversity is not only existing to serve the human hunger. Biodiversity ensures a certain level of resilience of ecosystems. This means that an ecosystem can better cope with disruptions and stresses. For example, such stresses can be weather extremes, increasing average temperature, and climate change in general. Humans tend to use biodiversity to maximise our food production, while limiting negative impacts on the surrounding environment.

Drivers of change

There are several causes that result in biodiversity change. These drivers have major impacts, mostly negative, on biodiversity and the service it provides. These services, also known as ecosystem services, support human food and agricultural production. Besides climate change, also international markets and demography cause major impacts on biodiversity. They result for example in change of land-use, increased pollution, over harvesting, and proliferation of invasive species. The reason why this happens, depends mostly on urbanisation, trade markets, and of course our own food preferences. However, the impacts are not solely negative. It also provides changes for more sustainable development, using biodiversity friendly products on markets.

Most negative impacts are the results of inappropriate agricultural practices. Bad land and water management is by far the driver with the highest negative impact. Forest logging, aquatic depletion, and intensive production fields all lead to reduction of species, breeds and thereby biodiversity. One of the reasons why this happens, is because countries lose traditional lifestyles that were more biodiversity friendly. Policy measures and scientific developments try to counteract this tendency. However, implementations to promote sustainable management are often weak.

Less biodiversity, more bio-friendly practices

Increasing numbers of agricultural species, such as livestock breeds are at risk of extinction. Plant species for crops are decreasing and people overfish the fish stocks dramatically. As a result, vital species for pollination, pest control and soil health are disappearing. A major lack of understanding also leads to the conclusion that the impact maybe even bigger.

Meanwhile, people try to increase the number of biodiversity-friendly practices. This means a sustainable use and conservation of resources, integrated in agricultural management at ecosystem level. Four out of five countries confirm to implement at least one of these practices. To which extent implementation takes place, is yet unclear. However, it many cases this is not enough. Species protection and conservation remains critically undervalued and poorly implemented.

Eco-friendly frameworks

The FAO report confirms the urgent need for frameworks to guide sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity for food and agriculture. The number of policies are indeed increasing. However, policies targeting wild species (not domesticated) are not common. There is a lack of awareness in policy-makers and stakeholders. Knowledge gaps on the impacts make policy development even more difficult. In addition, the diverse interest of certain groups of people prevent necessary development implementation of such frameworks.

People need to increase multidisciplinary and participatory cooperation to overcome these challenges. Not only policy-makers should be involved, also producers, consumers, suppliers and marketers. International cooperation is a key solution, states the FAO report. Only together, people will be able to make a change in the declining biodiversity and growing negative impact on our food security.

What to do?

The FAO stresses that we need to increase our understanding of the role of biodiversity for ecological processes and food production. People must then use the knowledge to develop new management strategies to act accordingly. Next, effective establishment is required to implement the strategies on ecosystem levels. The conclusion is very simple:

The next step is to take action.

The state of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture
Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – FAO

Read the full report online here.

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