Biodiversity / Biological diversity

“Everything is connected to everything.” [Alexander von Humboldt]

Biodiversity influences the performance of our ecosystems. The progressive loss of biological diversity is dramatic. There are fewer and fewer intact ecosystems. The creation and conservation of biological diversity is essential for human life.

Relevance: The biological diversity of living organisms on our planet

  • covers the diversity of ecosystems, species and their mutual interrelationships, as well as genetic diversity within a species.
  • is a dynamic entity that has developed in ascending and descending order throughout the history of the earth. Human culture has also created biological diversity. Nevertheless, the human-induced loss rate is 100 to 1000 times higher than the natural one.
  • affects the productivity and resilience of ecosystems and is responsible for the maintenance of many ecosystem services.

Nature’s services (ecosystems) make life possible for humans: they include the regulation of the climate and purification of air as well as the regulation of the water balance and thus also our supply of drinking water. Through the pollination of flowering plants, food is supplied to us. It is responsible for the formation of fertile soil, our basis of life, for photosynthesis and the circulation of substances. We are protected against extreme natural events (e.g. floods, landslides) and by controlling pests. Nature provides us with food, raw materials (e.g. wood, cotton) and biochemical/pharmaceutical substances and thus helps us in case of illness and against pathogens. It lets us regenerate, experience, build. It pleases, gives us stability and identity and satisfies our aesthetic feelings.

Strong endangerment

  • Worldwide: The majority of ecosystems are in a DEGRADED state. Any ongoing loss of biodiversity has negative impacts (MEA: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Biodiversity in inland waters is particularly threatened – species loss in rivers, lakes and wetlands is progressing at about two to three times the rate of loss in the sea or on land(World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), 2019).
  • Germany is home to approximately 48,000 animal species, 9,500 plant and 14,400 fungus species and 863 biotope types. 31 percent have been classified as endangered, four percent are already extinct, and about two thirds of the biotope types are endangered.
  • Northrhine-Westfalia: There are over 43,000 different animal, fungal and plant species in around 70 different habitats. Habitats and species (e.g. insects: 80 % biomass loss in 3 decades) show an unfavourable conservation status. About 45 percent of the species assessed are on the Red List of Threatened Species (Red List, FFH report).

Causes of the loss of biodiversity

The main causes of the endangerment of species and their habitats lie in the changed and increasingly intensive human use of nature and landscape.

  • Habitats are destroyed directly by overbuilding/sealing (for settlement and transport), deforestation, drainage or changed land and water use (forestry, use of waters, sport/leisure activities).
  • Habitats are overexploited and degraded by over-fertilization, use of pesticides, pollution, pollutant inputs, unsustainable land management, fragmentation, i.e. the living conditions there deteriorate.
  • The introduction of alien species can displace native species.
  • An adaptation to the accelerated changes in environmental conditions caused by climate change is difficult or impossible for many species. The broad impact of this change has a profound impact on all ecosystems.

Conservation of biodiversity

Measures to create and maintain biodiversity can be taken at the level of policy makers, associations and individuals.

International and national agreements / regulations for the protection of biodiversity

UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, Rio, 1992) Nagoya Protocol (2010): Report on the Economic Benefits of Biodiversity (TEEB initiative), Report on Improving Scientific Information on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 to Halt the Loss of Biodiversity and Measures for its Recovery) UN Decade of Biodiversity (2011-2020).

EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 (2011), National Biodiversity Strategies and at state level in D (e.g. Biodiversity Strategy NRW, 2015)

Measures to protect biodiversity

  • Designation of protected areas as refuges for wild animal and plant species (in Germany, approx. 16 percent of the land area is strictly protected as a national park, biosphere reserve, nature reserve or FFH/ Natura 2000 area)
  • Biotope protection and networking, also outside protected areas, by creating a diverse, richly structured, sustainably used agricultural landscape (e.g. preservation of extensively used grassland, reduction of the use of pesticides, fertilisers, pollutant input) / sustainable forest management (e.g. dead wood, unmanaged forest areas, interlinked forests) / the renaturation of rivers, streams and floodplains (e.g. by relocating dykes, creating fish permeability) / nature-compatible fishing quotas and methods in fisheries / reducing the consumption of settlement and transport areas and ecological upgrading of existing areas (municipal / commercial green spaces, urban gardening)

What can the individual do?

  • Design your own garden in a natural way, i.e. native, insect-friendly plant species, plant and structural diversity, pesticide-free. 
  • Support environmentally friendly agriculture by purchasing sustainably produced food (organic, regional, seasonal).
  • Considerate behaviour in nature and involvement in nature conservation associations


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