Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity is the basis of human existence, our life support system.  Ecosystems regulate climatic processes, breakdown wastes and recycle nutrients, filter and purify water, buffer against flooding, maintain soil fertility, purify air, and provide natural resources such as wood, textiles, and of course food.   All agriculture depends fundamentally on biodiversity, as do marine and freshwater food resources.

To allow continued biodiversity loss means losing the essential services that biodiversity provides, and prevents handing down an invaluable gift to future generations.

The below table, adapted from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, outlines the concept of ecosystem services and illustrates the importance of maintaining rich biodiversity and a healthy environment.

Nutrient Cycling
Primary Production
Soil Formation
Wood and Fiber
Climate Regulation
Flood Regulation
Disease Regulation
Water Purification

Biodiversity & Health

The diversity of life forms that exist is nature’s way of keeping important checks and balances in place, keeping populations of disease-causing pests and viruses in check. Clean air and water is essential to human health.  Plant extracts and derivatives form the basis of most traditional and many modern medicines. To date plant-based medicines provide more than 3 billion people with their primary health care. With the loss of global biodiversity, we could be losing vitally important undiscovered plant species that can be used to fight illnesses, such as cancer.

Biodiversity & Agriculture

Biodiversity provides us with a varied food supply, which is needed for balanced human nutrition. Conservation of genetic biodiversity is essential to ensure that domestic plants and animals can be adapted to thrive in local conditions.

Biodiversity & Business

Businesses depend on the earth’s biological resources such as clean water and raw materials, as essential components and services for the operation of their day-to-day activities. It is therefore important that there is a sustainable supply of these resources to ensure economic growth.

Next: Climate Change & Threats to Biodiversity