UN organisation’s report highlights concern over biodiversity

Pollinators are vital to agriculture. [Shutterstock]

The FAO has raised the alarm over the state of biodiversity, which is necessary for global food security, in the first report it has published on the subject. EURACTIV France’s media partner, the Journal de l’environnement reports.

While it is repeatedly a casualty of agriculture and our nutrition, biodiversity is needed for both of these. In a report published on 22 February concerning information provided by 91 countries, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) focused on plants (both crops and those collected) and animals (whether bred, hunted and fished), revealing that they face many threats.

Ecosystem services

How is biodiversity crucial to food safety? The FAO reported that biodiversity provides many vital ecosystem services, “whether by creating and maintaining healthy soils, pollinating plants,” pest control, a habitat for wildlife, including fish and other species which are critical to nutrition. Moreover, biodiversity makes production systems more resilient to stress factors, which increasingly include those related to climate change.

Agriculture also affected

In addition to its value in assisting the agricultural sector, biodiversity also related to consumed, domesticated and wild species. There has also been a steep decline in biodiversity in these areas due to agricultural standardisation.

Of the 6,000 crop plants to feed the population, fewer than 200 contribute significantly to nutrition (whether globally or nationally) and only nine of them make up 66% of global agricultural production. These crops are sugar cane, maize, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, oil-palm beat and cassava.

The same applies to livestock. Of the 7,745 livestock breeds identified across the world, 26% were classed as being at risk of extinction, 67% as being of unknown risk status and only 7% were deemed as not at risk.

Threat to harvesting, hunting and fishing

Of equal concern is the situation of the 3,980 consumed wild species around the world, most of them plants, fish and mammals. It was found that 24% were decreasing in abundance, while in 61% of cases, the trends were not known. The most affected areas were Latin America and the Caribbean, followed by Asia and Africa.

The threats posed vary between continents. For example, in Africa, there is overexploitation, hunting and poaching, and, in Europe and Central Asia, the threats are changes in land use and agricultural intensification. Furthermore, in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are threats of overexploitation, pests and invasive species, while in Asia, there is deforestation.

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