In biological sciences, biodiversity or biological diversity is an evaluation standard for the abundance of different life in a certain landscape or in a geographically limited area (for example grid cell or land ). A distinction is made between three sub-areas: firstly, the genetic (often visibly distinguishable) number of variants among the members of the same species , secondly the biodiversity and thirdly the number of ecosystems ( habitats such as biotope , biome , ecoregion ).
According to Carl Beierkuhnlein , biodiversity is a measure of the qualitative, quantitative and functional diversity of life on all organizational levels in the area examined. This makes it an important criterion for assessing whether an area is worthy of protection in terms of nature conservation , but also its sustainable significance for people .
The internationally recognized UN Convention on Biological Diversity ( Convention on Biological Diversity , CBD) has adopted the following definition:
On the development of the term and its implications for meaning
Technical term in biology
For some time, the concept of "exists diversity " as an environmental specialist terminus to describe the "diversity" of the properties of biological communities and ecological systems ( α- and γ-diversity , see below). In addition to the species richness, the best-known description of diversity is the Shannon-Wiener index derived from information theory . It takes into account both the frequency distribution and the diversity of species. Another popular diversity index in biology is the Simpson index .
The diversity of a community in the sense defined here is initially not to be understood as an ecological term of description. Thus, diversity indices cannot simply be used to compare a normatively interpretable nature conservation value of communities.
Term in environmental policy
Biodiversity is the short form of the term "biological diversity" ( English biological diversity; biodiversity ). The term biodiversity originally comes from the scientific environment of the US conservation movement. The use of “biodiversity” also in research contexts led to a certain politicization of the scientific research field of nature conservation biology. The establishment of the term should serve to enforce political demands with a social, economic and scientific policy background. The title of the book Biodiversity (English edition) published in 1986 by evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson was the first widely recognized use of the term. The book was preceded by a US conference on the subject.
Ambivalent use of language in Germany
The term “ biodiversity ” may be used synonymously with biodiversity. The definition chosen in the CBD also includes other meanings (see below). In the German-speaking world, the term is generally considered to be "bulky" and difficult to convey to the public. Even the Federal Republic of Germany, host of the 9th Conference of the Parties in 2008, tried to find a substitute term for public awareness and called the event the “Nature Conservation Conference”.
Basics of biodiversity research
The fundamentals for researching biodiversity are taxonomy , systematics and biogeography ; hence the recording, identification and description of species. For the distribution of biodiversity, the mapping of the biodiversity of plants as the most common and determining organisms of almost all land ecosystems is particularly suitable . They thus serve as indicators for the entire biodiversity: From their species distribution, the boundaries of the biogeographical units - from the smallest biotopes to large habitats - can be determined and delimited. In this way, the diversity of species and ecosystems is related to the area. The resulting maps are used for the basic assessment of the distribution of global biodiversity.
Levels, measures and indicators for biodiversity
Biodiversity spans different levels:
- genetic diversity - on the one hand the genetic diversity of all genes within a species (= genetic variability ), on the other hand the entire genetic diversity of a biocenosis or an ecosystem ;
- Taxonomic diversity - the number of different taxa , especially species , in an ecosystem or on a larger scale;
- Ecosystem Diversity - the diversity of habitats and ecosystems;
- Functional biodiversity - the diversity of realized ecological functions and processes in the ecosystem (for example, estimated on the basis of the number of different life forms or ecological guilds ).
A complete characterization of biodiversity must include all four levels.
An approach to measure the biodiversity in a larger context than that of the individual community comes from Robert H. Whittaker . He divides the species diversity into alpha , beta , gamma , delta and epsilon diversity. These gradations describe diversity patterns depending on the observed areas in different scales: selective, local and regional.
The CBD aims to develop indicators ( english indicators ) to determine the global biodiversity of the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership transferred (GDP). This is often due to methodological difficulties not measures of biodiversity itself, but better known or easily measurable proxies ( English proxies ).
Such indicators are among others
- the abundance and distribution of species,
- the Living Planet Index ,
- the forest area ,
- the extent of marine habitats,
- the area of protected areas ( nature reserves, etc.),
- the water quality of sea and fresh water ( eutrophication , pollution, etc.),
- Health and prosperity of human communities that are directly dependent on local ecosystems
- the number of carriers of traditional natural knowledge among indigenous people and linguistic diversity among indigenous people.
Biological and cultural diversity
In addition, many indigenous and local communities live in all regions with high biodiversity . The International Society for Ethnobiology assumes that 99 percent of the world's usable genetic resources are in their care. Whether there is a direct connection between biological and cultural diversity cannot be proven. The great diversity of indigenous cultures and by far the largest number of different languages is striking.
Traditional farming practices and biodiversity
In contrast, however, there is a clear connection in the form of an interdependent relationship between the natural environment and the traditional (subsistence-oriented and non-industrial) economic forms of the local groups. On the one hand, these people need a great diversity of resources to exercise their subsistence (recognized, among other things, in the Biodiversity Convention) and, on the other hand, the local diversity is increased by the traditional methods (this can also be historically proven for the Central European cultural landscapes : The mosaic of extensively used agricultural areas and forests was significantly richer in species than the potential climax vegetation ). The integration of local groups into the market economy requires the generation of surpluses, which are mostly achieved through the introduction of industrial means of production or the conversion to economically viable products. As a rule, this leads to the destruction of natural habitats and thus to a decline in biological diversity.
Loss of biodiversity
In this context, already the stated WWF Germany of the 2016er edition Living Planet Report ( 'Living Planet Report') catastrophic evolution of biodiversity: in the now captured more than 14,000 vertebrate - populations as a whole is declining in number by almost 60 % recorded over the past 40 years. Freshwater species ( amphibians and freshwater fish ) are particularly badly affected, and their populations have shrunk by an average of 81% worldwide during this period.
The decline in "global biodiversity" reported in the Living Planet Report is not an extinction of species ; H. a loss of taxonomic diversity, but primarily a loss of genetic diversity within species populations or their subpopulations as a result of a decrease in the number of corresponding individuals. This is also called generosion , although this term is sometimes incorrectly used as a general synonym for the decline in biodiversity.
In 2000, a team of scientists from eight countries identified the five most important influencing factors that mainly cause the decline in global biodiversity:
- Changes in land use: This includes in particular the deforestation of forests and the transformation of natural ecosystems into agricultural areas;
- Climate changes , including precipitation and temperature;
- Nitrogen pollution of waters. Entries about artificial fertilizers , faeces and car exhaust fumes are mainly responsible for this;
- Introduction of neophytes as well
- increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The term “ biodiversity hotspot ” has become established for a geographical area in which biodiversity is particularly large - and which is at the same time particularly threatened . An important study on the identification of hotspots was carried out in 2000 by Myers et al. (2000) presented. The hotspots are described by Myers et al. defined as areas with a high number of endemic plant species "which have already lost most of their original habitat in this area". The criterion of species diversity and that of endangerment, derived from the extent of habitat loss, are therefore used as indicators. Brooks et al. (2001) describe the extent of habitat loss and extinction of species in the hotspots.
Biodiversity and functionality of ecosystems
The importance of biological diversity for the function of ecosystems has been the subject of controversial discussion for several decades. At the end of the 1960s, these discussions reached an initial consensus: Diversity favors stability. However, this consensus was severely disrupted a short time later when Robert May, using mathematical simulations, came to the conclusion that the species constancy in randomly composed species-rich model ecosystems is lower than in species-poor. At that time, the constancy of species composition was the most important indicator of the stability of an ecosystem . The results of David Tilman , published from the mid-1980s, brought an intensive re-engagement with the question of diversity and stability . The question of the importance of biodiversity for the functionality of ecosystems is a focus of ecosystem research and nature conservation ecology . The following scientific consensus applies today:
- The functional properties of species have a strong influence on the properties of an ecosystem. The importance of this species for the ecosystem cannot always be derived from the relative abundance of a species alone. Even relatively rare species can have a major impact on the nature of the ecosystem.
- Some species, often dominant ones, play a decisive role within the biological communities (so-called key species). Their loss leads to drastic changes in terms of the structure and function of the community.
- The effects of species extinction and changes in species composition can differ in terms of the nature of the ecosystem, the type of ecosystem and the way the change is expressed in the community.
- Some properties of ecosystems are initially less susceptible to species extinction, as several species may fulfill a similar function within an ecosystem (redundancy), individual species may contribute relatively little to the functionality of an ecosystem ("irrelevance") or abiotic environmental conditions may affect the nature determine the ecosystem.
- With increasing spatial and temporal variability, the number of species necessary for the function of ecosystems increases.
The following is considered likely:
- The susceptibility of a community to the establishment of neobiota correlates negatively with the number of species, with the "saturation" of the community. But it also depends on other factors such as the rate of introduction of diaspores ( propagule pressure ), disruptive factors or the availability of resources.
- If existing species react differently to disruptive factors, then the function of the ecosystem is more likely to be preserved in the event of disruptive influences than if the existing species react similarly to disruptive factors.
Economic and social importance of biodiversity
The CBD affirms the value of biological diversity and its components with regard to ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural and aesthetic contexts as well as with regard to the recreational function and, in addition to the instrumental aspects, acknowledges the intrinsic value of biodiversity.
Self worth and self worth
Intrinsic value means that biodiversity is valued in itself because of the value that people attach to it. This appreciation concerns z. B. their existence per se, their personal and cultural significance for the individual in terms of memory value and home, their special characteristics or the possibility of giving the individual special experiences, such as B. that of the wilderness. From the point of view of the ecosystem service approach , the elements, structures, conditions and processes of ecological systems to which intrinsic values are ascribed are mostly understood as cultural ecosystem services.
The self-worth of biodiversity must be distinguished from intrinsic value. Objects with self-worth have a purpose in and of themselves, cannot be replaced, are generally not subject to any consideration and cannot be monetized. Under the aspect of the self-worth of biodiversity, concepts are to be preferred which consider the conservation of biodiversity per se, i.e. which do not apply the standard solely to the maintenance of its functions. Whether one can ascribe self-worth to biodiversity or the creatures that make it up is a matter of dispute.
Insurance hypothesis and insurance value
After the ecological insurance hypothesis ( Ecological Insurance Hypothesis ) can be expected that an increase in the number of species (and / or the genetic variability within the populations of a species) have a stabilizing effect on various process parameters of ecological systems has. As the number of species increases, the probability increases that several species occur that can perform a very similar ecological function ( functional redundancy ) but differ in their environmental tolerances. This reduces the probability that changes in environmental conditions will cause all species that can fulfill the function in question to locally become extinct.
A high number of species is also a condition for a large number of different ecological functions to be able to be taken over in an ecosystem ( functional diversity ). If the environmental conditions change, a previously insignificant function can become relevant. If, for example, an ecosystem that was previously extensively supplied with reactive nitrogen compounds is cut off from the nitrogen source, the importance of nitrogen-fixing organisms increases. In a species-rich ecosystem, there is a higher probability that species already exist that can perform this function. In the case of species-rich ecosystems, it is also assumed that the food web relationships are more stable.
If biological diversity - according to the ecological insurance hypothesis or similar mechanisms - stabilizes processes and conditions of ecological systems, an insurance value can be assigned to biodiversity . This is at least always the case when ecosystem services depend on the processes and conditions . A high level of biodiversity therefore tends to make ecosystem services more reliable. From an environmental point of view, the insurance value is an option value in the face of an uncertain future, since the extent of future disturbances that require stabilization is not known.
Attempts can be made in various ways to economically estimate the insurance value. One method takes into account the susceptibility of the processes and structures of the ecosystem to disruptions and determines the impact of this on the provision of ecosystem services. Since the insured value is here essentially derived from the behavior of ecological systems in the event of disruptions, economic quantification can be difficult. Changes caused by disturbances often have no linear effect on the provision of ecosystem services. Rather, major changes often only occur when a certain threshold, the so-called “tipping point”, is exceeded. The probability of exceeding the tipping point can be used as an indication of the economic value. In-depth knowledge of the current status of the system, its prerequisites and its specific tipping point areas are required for the assessment on which the insurance value is based. See also stability concepts of ecosystems, especially that of resilience .
Another method for the economic quantification of the insurance value makes a direct determination of the population's willingness to pay . Social science survey methods ( stated preference methods ) such as contingent evaluation or the choice experiment are used . Evidence that such an insurance value is recognized by the population as an economic preference in terms of willingness to pay is now available through several studies from Indonesia, Chile and Germany. Another method is observing the decision-making behavior of land users. It has been shown that farmers appreciate the advantage that a reduced fluctuation range of the annual harvest yield brings with a higher agrobiodiversity: They then prefer to cultivate different crops ( crop diversity ). However, the agronomic value of crop diversity is limited by opposing advantages of specialization.
Value for pharmacy and world food
Biodiversity is also of economic importance as a reservoir of potential active pharmaceutical ingredients, of food plants and of genes for agricultural variety breeding, for biotechnological processes or for bionic developments ( option value ).
The benefits of herbal medicinal products are immense: Today more than 20,000 plant species are known to be relevant for medicinal products, 1,400 of which are potentially important as cancer drugs. The total economic value was estimated at over $ 40 billion in 1987. The progressive reduction in biodiversity massively reduces this potential.
95.7% of global food crops originally come from the tropical and subtropical regions, where biodiversity is particularly high. In this respect, it can be assumed that genetic resources that are valuable for world food will also be found here in the future . Especially since food production worldwide is based on only around 30 species, although there are around 30,000 edible plants. Specializing in a few grains and vegetables is risky. It is not enough just to preserve genetic diversity in seed banks. As with wild plants, the rule applies to all cultivated plants that only sufficient genetic diversity provides long-term protection against unexpected developments (such as diseases or pest infestation). It was also found that a large variety of pollinating insects make the pollen distribution particularly effective and thus lead to higher and safer yields (e.g. pumpkin cultivation).
While in the past interested scientists and company representatives could freely avail themselves of the biodiversity of foreign countries ( biopiracy ) , the Biodiversity Convention introduced the property rights of a state to its genetic resources. Using a mechanism called Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), an attempt is made to facilitate the use of genetic resources while at the same time allowing the source countries of biodiversity to participate in their economic use.
The decline in biodiversity can increase the prevalence of infectious diseases in an ecosystem. The spread of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and pathogenic fungi is promoted. The health of people, but also of remaining animals and plants, can be endangered as a result.
Social aspects of biodiversity loss
In many cases, the consequences of decreasing biodiversity hit the poor rural population first, as they are often directly dependent on ecosystem services , which in turn are based on a diverse biological environment or the sustainable use of its elements. Replacements for these ecosystem services are often not accessible or affordable for these parts of the population.
Protection of biological diversity
Suitable countermeasures are the replacement of fossil fuels and wood with alternative energy sources with the lowest possible expansion of the use of biofuels from crops , an enlargement of the protected areas to preserve primary ecosystems, especially in the tropical rainforests , and the preservation of the diversity of wild and domesticated animals - and plant species. In this regard, WWF calls for environmentally harmful subsidies to be abolished .
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) , which was adopted and signed by 192 member states at the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, provides a basis for protecting biodiversity . Other international agreements for the protection of biological diversity are the Ramsar Convention and the Washington Convention on the Protection of Species (CITES). In the CBD, the member states have committed themselves to stop the loss of biological diversity. The three main goals are: The protection of biodiversity, its sustainable use and the fair compensation of the benefits resulting from the use of (genetic) resources.
In 2007, the federal government adopted a national strategy on biological diversity . In doing so, she is implementing an order from the CBD. The strategy names 330 goals and around 430 measures and is to apply by 2020. In essence, the decline in biological diversity should be halted. The Bundestag is regularly informed about the implementation of the strategy.
The Austria 2020+ Biodiversity Strategy was developed in open thematic workshops in collaboration with hundreds of participants under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) and the Federal Environment Agency and published in December 2014. The implementation of the strategy and the achievement of objectives are accompanied by a specially founded National Biodiversity Commission . The biodiversity strategy contains 12 goals in 5 fields of action, which are based on international objectives, as well as a comprehensive catalog of measures for the preservation of biological diversity in Austria.
On May 2, 2011, the European Commission published its own biodiversity strategy with which it aims to stop the loss of biological diversity by 2020. The strategy has six goals:
- the full implementation of Directive 92/43 / EEC (Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive) from 1992.
- the conservation and enhancement of ecosystems.
- increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to the conservation and enhancement of ecosystems.
- to ensure the sustainable use of fish stocks.
- identify and control the spread of invasive species .
- to help halt global biodiversity loss.
The UN World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) was founded in Bonn in 2012 to provide the 129 member states with scientifically legitimized and credible information on the conservation and use of biodiversity and ecosystem functions in political decision-making processes . A global biodiversity report was published in 2019, highlighting the current mass extinction .
- The United Nations have the International Day for Biological Diversity established since 2000 on May 22, the day of the adoption of the Convention (previously was named since 1994 on December 29 for the day of their entry into force).
- The year 2010 has been declared by the UN as the International Year of Biodiversity .
- Derived from the term biodiversity, the structurally analogous term used in the publishing industry is bibliodiversity .
- Raising public awareness for the conservation of biodiversity and intact nature is a key objective of the National Strategy on Biological Diversity (Chapter B5). The nature of consciousness studies gather every two years, the social awareness of biodiversity in Germany. The latest findings of the study show that 42 percent of Germans are familiar with one of the three aspects of biological diversity (knowledge indicator), 54 percent are sufficiently aware of the protection of biological diversity (attitude indicator) and 56 percent express a high willingness to maintain the biodiversity themselves Contributing to biodiversity (behavioral indicator).
- Bruno Baur : Biodiversity. UTB, Bern 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-3325-9 ( UTB 3325, UTB Profile ).
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- An overview of the indicators from 2010 is provided by 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership: Biodiversity indicators and the 2010 Target: Experiences and lessons learned from the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership. CBD Technical Series No. 53. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montréal, Canada (PDF), Annex 1 (pp. 75–165)
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- See results of the Brookhaven Symposia in Biology , at which this point of view was “codified”: Diversity and Stability in Ecological Systems . GM Woodwell, HH Smith (Eds.), 1969: Brookhaven Symposia in Biology No. 22 , Brookhaven National Laboratory , Upton, NY.
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- DU Hooper, FS Chapin, III, JJ Ewel, A. Hector, P. Inchausti, S. Lavorel, JH Lawton, DM Lodge, M. Loreau, S. Naeem, B. Schmid, H. Setälä, AJ Symstad, J Vandermeer, DA Wardle (2005): Effects of Biodiversity on Ecosystem Functioning: A Consensus of Current Knowledge . Ecological Monographs 75 (1): pp. 3-35. JSTOR 4539083
- Thomas M. Smith, Robert L. Smith: Ecology , Pearson Studium Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8273-7313-7 , p. 480 f.
- according to the CBD (German version). ( PDF )
- The terms “Eigenwert” and “Selbstwert” are explained in somewhat more detail in: Uta Eser & Thomas Potthast: Nature Conservation Ethics . An introduction to practice. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 1999. ISBN 3-7890-6016-X . P. 60 ff.
- Terry C. Daniel, Andreas Muhar, Arne Arnberger, Olivier Aznar, James W. Boyd, Kai MA Chan, Robert Costanza, Thomas Elmqvist, Courtney G. Flint, Paul H. Gobster, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Rebecca Lave, Susanne Muhar , Marianne Penker, Robert G. Ribe, Thomas Schauppenlehner, Thomas Sikor, Ihor Soloviy, Marja Spierenburg, Karolina Taczanowska, Jordan Tam, Andreas von der Dunk: Contributions of cultural services to the ecosystem services agenda . In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . tape 109 , no. 23 , 2012, p. 8812-8819 .
- Uta Eser, Ann-Kathrin Neureuther, Hannah Seyfang, Albrecht Müller: Prudence, justice and the good life: a typology of ethical reasoning in selected European national biodiversity strategies . Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, Bonn 2014, ISBN 978-3-944811-00-0 ( PDF on the IUCN page ).
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- Stefan Baumgärtner: The insurance value of biodiversity in the provision of ecosystem services . Natural Resource Modeling 2007/20 (1): pp. 87-127.
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