The 15th two-week World Summit on Nature begins this Wednesday in Montreal. The project “The Debate” has set out to classify the different interests and negotiation fronts through a series of articles and interviews. This is the first post.
Around a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction worldwide, according to a report by the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES). Scientists are already talking about the beginning of the sixth mass extinction. In the discussion, however, the loss of biodiversity is much less present than the climate crisis. However, the “Biodiversity Day” on November 16 at the World Climate Conference in Egypt shows that the climate and biodiversity crises belong together. “We can only achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement with healthy ecosystems and their contribution to climate protection,” said Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke in her speech.
Both climate change and the decline in biological diversity have highly problematic effects for us humans. That is why government representatives from all over the world will meet again from December 7th to 19th for the global biodiversity conference (Cop15), the world summit on nature. The aim is to reach new, global agreements to protect biodiversity.
Biodiversity is existential
The term “biodiversity” refers to the diversity of all living organisms, the diversity within and between species, and the diversity of ecosystems. Biodiversity loss describes the decline in this diversity and the destruction of ecosystems.
A well-known example of the loss of biological diversity is insect mortality. The “Krefeld Study” has shown that the biomass of flying insects has fallen by 75 percent within 27 years. But fish stocks are also steadily declining: in 2015, a third of marine fish stocks were considered overfished. A lesser-known but equally worrying loss is found underground: microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria convert animal and plant biomass to provide nutrients to the soil. When they decrease, soils are less fertile – both for other organisms and for food.
“The air we breathe, our food and our drinking water come from nature,” explains Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, on the relevance of diversity for us humans. She considers this negative trend to be problematic: “Biodiversity is our livelihood.”
Biodiversity is existential because nature provides us humans with goods free of charge – so-called ecosystem services. These can be material services, such as drinking water, cultural services such as recreational opportunities, and regulatory services, such as carbon storage or climate regulation.
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