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Biodiversity

A Maasai child herding cattle, Tanzania ©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

Biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. Thousands of interconnected species make up a vital web of biodiversity within the ecosystems upon which global food production depends.

With the erosion of biodiversity, humankind loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change. Achieving food security for all is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of biodiversity.

FAO's role in biodiversity

Healthy ecosystems are essential to increase resilience and agricultural production in the face of change.

Production needs to be sustainable: capitalizing on biological processes and harvesting resources without compromising natural capital such as biodiversity and ecosystem services.

A large number of the world’s poor rely directly on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and their livelihoods would be affected first and foremost by biodiversity loss.

A vastly broader share of the human population would be affected by a decrease in the provision of ecosystem services related to food production, nutrition, water and sanitation.

Instruments 

In its work on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, FAO has developed a number of instruments and tools that contribute to sustainable development while addressing objectives and priorities related to biodiversity.

FAO promotes the integration of its own biodiversity-related instruments for the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, the overarching framework on biodiversity for the entire United Nations system.

A mapping of the biodiversity related instruments contributing to the Strategic Plan on Biodiversity is maintained by the UN Issue Management Group on Biodiversity.

Partnership

FAO is a major partner in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity and, in collaboration with other UN partners such as CBD, UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, contributes to the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Targets.

Biodiversity for a world without hunger

FAO’s work on biodiversity for food and agriculture takes into consideration the following main challenges:

  • the large and increasing number of undernourished and malnourished people in the world
  • the difficulties in obtaining access to food
  • the loss of natural resources
  • the uncertainty associated with climate change

To cope with challenges and uncertainties, a large reservoir of biological diversity will be needed.

  • Animals – The biodiversity of approximately 35 animal species domesticated for use in agriculture and food production is the primary biological capital for livestock development and is vital to food security and sustainable rural development.
  • Plants – In human history, about 7 000 species of plants have been cultivated for consumption.
  • Forests – Among the most important repositories of terrestrial biological diversity, tropical, temperate and boreal forests offer very diverse habitats for plants, animals and micro-organisms.
  • Aquatic organisms – Marine, coastal and inland areas support a rich assortment of aquatic biological diversity, which contributes to the economic, cultural, nutritional, social, recreational and spiritual betterment of human populations.
  • Soils – The variability among living organisms ranging from micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi, protozoa) to larger meso-fauna (e.g. acari and springtails) are essential to agriculture.
  • Nutrition –The consumption of one variety over another can make the difference between nutritional adequacy and inadequacy.