Biodiversity is the foundation of agrifood systems  

Biodiversity is the foundation for agrifood systems, for sustainable agricultural production and food security and nutrition for all.  Biodiversity includes the variety of the world’s plant, animal, fungal and microbial species, the genetic diversity within these species and the diversity of all the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems they inhabit. 

Biodiversity is critical for ecosystem functions and services and extends beyond the species and varieties directly used for food, fuel and fibre. This broader biodiversity includes animal pollinators that increase crop yields and a range of species that help control pests. Below ground, a vast community of living organisms contributes to healthy soils, cycling nutrients, retaining and purifying water, and sequestering carbon. In aquatic systems, harvested species rely on oxygen and food provided by other species, and they benefit from habitats such as kelp forests and coral reefs.  

Around the world, biodiversity also supports the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, local communities and family farmers, forest keepers, fisher folk, livestock keepers and pastoralists.  

The diversity of the crop varieties, livestock breeds and farmed types of fish that have been developed, sustainably used and conserved by smallholders and communities for millennia contributes to peoples’ food security, nutrition and livelihoods in a multitude of ways.  

To safeguard food and agricultural production, now and for the future, we need to sustainably manage the biodiversity present in production systems and the wide range of ecosystem services that are derived from surrounding landscapes and seascapes.  


Key concepts 


Biological diversity (often referred to as biodiversity) is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”. (CBD, 1992

Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture (BFA) 

BFA is a subcategory of biodiversity comprising “the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels that sustain the ecosystem structures, functions and processes in and around production systems, and that provide food and non-food agricultural products.” (FAO, 2019

Mainstreaming biodiversity for a sustainable and food-secure world for all 

Biodiversity is vital to agrifood systems, but it is also affected by them. Addressing the biodiversity and climate crises and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require the transformation of agriculture, forestry and fisheries so to ensure both that their impacts on biodiversity are reduced and that people’s needs are met. 

That is why FAO works on biodiversity mainstreaming which is the process of embedding biodiversity considerations into policies, strategies and practices of key public and private actors that impact or rely on biodiversity, so that it is conserved and sustainably used both locally and globally. (GEF, 2016)

Ensuring that agriculture is sustainable and productive is an important step towards halting the conversion and fragmentation of forests and other ecosystems. This will contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation and reduce the risk of future pandemics by helping to regulate pathogen emergence and spillover. 

Building on a long history of fostering sustainable agricultural development and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for food and agriculture, FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31, which guides the Organization’s work, reinforces its commitment to the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity as integral elements of its vision of a sustainable and food secure world for all. 

FAO acts as a neutral forum and is present in over 140 countries. Click here to learn more about FAO’s work with governments and other key actors to mainstream biodiversity across the agrifood sectors.