Web of life
Biodiversity is the term used to describe the variety of life on Earth. It includes every plant and animal as well as micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Scientists have identified less than 2 million species so far but estimate there could be at least 13 million species in total.
Our lives are intertwined with nature. We use plants and animals to produce our food, drink, clothing, building materials, fuel and medicines.
Living systems also provide the services we take for granted such as clean air, fresh water, fertile soil, breakdown of natural waste, plant pollination and regulation of climate. Biodiversity is all around us; it shapes and enriches our way of life.
You are an integral part of nature; your fate is tightly linked with biodiversity, the huge variety of other animals and plants, the places they live and the surrounding environments.
Yet this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities. This impoverishes us all and weakens the ability of the living systems on which we depend to resist growing threats such as climate change.
The threats to species and ecosystems include habitat destruction, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution, introduction of alien species, climate change and increasing demands on nature from rising human populations.
We need to act now to halt the current loss of biodiversity and to ensure a quality of life for future generations.
Why does it matter to me?
You are biodiversity. Most of the oxygen you breathe comes from plankton in the oceans of the world and lush forests around the globe. The fruit and vegetables you eat were likely to have been pollinated by bees, and the water you drink is part of a huge global cycle involving you, clouds, rainfall, glaciers, rivers and oceans.