Rights and Resources Initiative
World Database of Protected Areas
Biodiversity on earth is the result of billions of years of evolution and consists of millions of distinct biological species, the genetic variations in these species, and diverse ecosystems such as terrestrial, marine and aquatic. The relevance of biodiversity to human health and food is critical in the context of climate change as many anticipated risks result in biodiversity loss and changes.
Biodiversity supports a number of natural ecosystem processes and services including water purification, nutrient cycling and waste decomposition, and creates stability in nature to prevent and recover from disasters.
Rapid global warming can affect ecosystems’ ability to adapt naturally. The frequency and intensity of floods, cyclones and landslides is predicted to increase in the future and erode biodiversity. An increased risk of wildfires due to warming and drying out of vegetation is likely. Studies have shown that a third of the world’s coral reefs – often called the rainforests of the oceans – are facing extinction due to ocean acidification caused by warmer waters, which endangers around 30% of all marine species.
Human actions for resource consumption have led to destruction of plant and animal habitats, leading to increased biodiversity loss at unprecedented rates. Globally, the number of threatened species has risen by more than 50% in the last decade. Overpopulation, deforestation, pollution and global warming have all a growing impact on biodiversity. The release of CO2 through deforestation and land use changes account for as much as 25% of total human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiversity hotspots are home to endemic species with specialized habitats, and can result being endangered or extinct due to climate variability.
Biodiversity is poor countries’ most precious asset but increased movement of alien species induced by climate change is threatening agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural systems that underpin millions of livelihoods. According to United Nations Environment Programme, millions of people, including many in developing countries, derive their livelihoods from fishing, while around 2.6 billion people get their protein from seafood.
Scientific evidence also indicates global health implications of biodiversity loss induced by climate change. Changes in populations and distribution of disease vectors, scarcity of fresh water can impact food resources, further affecting dietary health and nutrition security, medicinal resources, social and psychological health and well-being.
Biodiversity also plays a crucial but often underestimated role in the mitigation of climate change. As they grow, plants, fungi and soil bacteria work together to bind carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere into the soil, wood and other organic matter. This process ‘sequesters’ carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby helping to reduce the amount of this greenhouse gas, which is most responsible for global warming.
Maintaining local biodiversity, increasing urban green space, and shielding forest areas are significant and effective contributions towards global climate protection. Policy makers also need to include local communities’ participation in natural resource conservation and management and ensure their adoption of relevant technology.