Agricultural Biodiversity

Agricultural biodiversity provides not only food and income but also raw materials for clothing, shelter, medicines, breeding new varieties, and performs other services such as maintenance of soil fertility and biota, and soil and water conservation, all of which are essential to human survival. Nearly one third of the world's land area is used for food production. More »

Links between biodiversity and food systems

Biodiversity supports the livelihoods of food producers while also reducing negative impacts on the environment.
  • By providing important ecosystem services, like pest control and nutrient cycling, biodiversity reduces the need for costly and harmful external inputs.
  • Having a greater diversity of genes, species and ecosystems makes production systems and livelihoods more resilient to shocks and stresses and often leads to more stable and efficient ecosystem service provision. This is especially important to consider in the context of climate change.

Biodiversity also contributes to food security and nutrition by providing nutritionally diverse foods.
  • Cultivated species are an important source of nutrition, yet of the more than 6000 plant species that have been cultivated for food, only 9 species account for 66% of total crop production.
  • Wild species are also an important source of nutrition, rich in micronutrients, for many households around the world, yet many are under threat from overexploitation and habitat loss.

Food systems based on the sustainable use of biodiversity and traditional knowledge have the potential to provide food security and livelihoods in a sustainable manner, making them an important lever in attaining the SDGs.
  • The Sustainable Agriculture Transition presented in the 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook highlights how incorporating a greater diversity of crops and livestock, creating and maintaining well connected habitat for associated biodiversity, practicing sustainable soil management and reducing the use of synthetic inputs can increase biodiversity and ecosystem services without negatively affecting yields.
  • The total economic gains to society, from transforming the food and land systems, have been estimated to have the potential to reach $5.7 trillion a year by 2030.

GBO-5 Agriculture Highlights

The fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5) provides a final assessment of progress towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. While nearly all of the Aichi Targets are relevant in some way to agricultural biodiversity, there are some specific elements of the Aichi Targets that are especially relevant to achieving healthy, productive and sustainable agricultural systems; these are Aichi Targets 3, 4, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 18.

For more information, see: GBO-5 Agriculture Highlights

Biodiversity plays an important role in underpinning ecosystem functions and services that are essential for the productivity and sustainability of our food systems. As outlined in GBO-5, each of the conditions necessary to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity requires a significant shift away from ‘business as usual’ across a broad range of human activities. The shape and nature of such transformative change can already be identified through a series of transitions under way to a limited extent in key areas. The key transitions to sustainable pathways related to agricultural biodiversity are:

The Sustainable Agriculture Transition
  • This transition recognizes the role of biodiversity, including pollinators, pest and disease control organisms, soil biodiversity and genetic diversity, as well as diversity in the landscape, for productive and resilient agriculture that makes efficient use of land, water and other resources.

The Sustainable Food Systems Transition
  • This transition recognizes the potential nutritional benefits from diverse foods and food systems, and the need to reduce demand-driven pressures globally while ensuring food security in all its dimensions.

Upcoming: UN Food Systems Summit 2021

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has convened a Food Systems Summit to be held in 2021. The UN Food Systems Summit aims to launch bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food, as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The Summit is scheduled to take place at the margins of the General Assembly in 2021 and will be guided by five Action Tracks that plan to bring together key players and draw on the expertise of actors from across the world’s food systems.

Action Track 1: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all

Action Track 2: Shift to sustainable consumption patterns

Action Track 3: Boost nature-positive production

Action Track 4: Advance equitable livelihoods

Action Track 5: Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress

A number of Food System Summit Dialogues are planned leading up to the summit, including Member State Dialogues organized by national Governments. The outcomes of these will be of use in developing pathways to sustainable food systems and a valuable contribution to the various work streams in preparing for the Summit.

For more information on the UN Foods Systems Summit visit the following link: https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-summit