Agricultural Biodiversity

Programme Element # 1: Assessment

Operational objective

To provide a comprehensive analysis of status and trends of the world's agricultural biodiversity and of their underlying causes (including a focus on the goods and services agricultural biodiversity provides), as well of local knowledge of its management.


Processes for country-driven assessments are in place, or under development, for the crop and farm-animal genetic resources components. The assessments draw upon, and contribute to, comprehensive data and information systems. There is also much information about resources that provide the basis for agriculture (soil, water), and about land cover and use, climatic and agro-ecological zones. However, further assessments may be needed, for example, for microbial genetic resources, for the ecosystem services provided by agricultural biodiversity such as nutrient cycling, pest and disease regulation and pollination, and for social and economic aspects related to agricultural biodiversity. Assessments may also be needed for the interactions between agricultural practices, sustainable agriculture and the conservation and sustainable use of the components of biodiversity referred to in Annex I to the Convention. Understanding of the underlying causes of the loss of agricultural biodiversity is limited, as is understanding of the consequences of such loss for the functioning of agricultural ecosystems. Moreover, the assessments of the various components are conducted separately; there is no integrated assessment of agricultural biodiversity as a whole. There is also lack of widely accepted indicators of agricultural biodiversity. The further development and application of such indicators, as well as assessment methodologies, are necessary to allow an analysis of the status and trends of agricultural biodiversity and its various components and to facilitate the identification of biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices (see programme element 2).


1.1. Support the ongoing or planned assessments of different components of agricultural biodiversity, for example, the reports on the state of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and the state of the world's animal genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as other relevant reports and assessments by FAO and other organizations, elaborated in a country-driven manner through consultative processes.

1.2. Promote and develop specific assessments of additional components of agricultural biodiversity that provide ecological services, drawing upon the outputs of programme element 2. This might include targeted assessments on priority areas (for example, loss of pollinators, pest management and nutrient cycling).

1.3. Carry out an assessment of the knowledge, innovations and practices of farmers and indigenous and local communities in sustaining agricultural biodiversity and agro-ecosystem services for and in support of food production and food security.

1.4. Promote and develop assessments of the interactions between agricultural practices and the conservation and sustainable use of the components of biodiversity referred to in Annex I to the Convention.

1.5. Develop methods and techniques for assessing and monitoring the status and trends of agricultural biodiversity and other components of biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems, including:

  1. Criteria and guidelines for developing indicators to facilitate monitoring and assessment of the status and trends of biodiversity in different production systems and environments, and the impacts of various practices, building wherever possible on existing work, in accordance with decision V/7, on the development of indicators on biological diversity, in accordance to the particular characteristics and needs of Parties;
  2. An agreed terminology and classification for agro-ecosystems and production systems to facilitate the comparison and synthesis of various assessments and monitoring of different components of biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems, at all levels and scales, between countries, and regional and international partner organizations;
  3. Data and information exchange on agricultural biodiversity (including available information on ex situ collections) in particular through the clearing-house mechanism under the Convention on Biological Diversity, building on existing networks, databases, and information systems;
  4. Methodology for analysis of the trends of agricultural biodiversity and its underlying causes, including socio-economic causes.

Ways and means

Exchange and use of experiences, information and findings from the assessments shall be facilitated by Parties, Governments and networks with consultation between countries and institutions, including use of existing networks.

Country-driven assessments of genetic resources of importance for food and agriculture (activity 1.1) shall be implemented, including through programmes of FAO and in close collaboration with other organizations, such as CGIAR . Resources may need to be identified to support additional assessments (activity 1.2), which would draw upon elements of existing programmes of international organizations, and the outputs of programme element 2.

This programme element, particularly activity 1.5, will be supported through catalytic activities, building upon and bringing together existing programmes, in order assist Parties to develop agricultural biodiversity indicators, agreed terminology, etc., through, inter alia, technical workshops, meetings and consultations, e-mail conferences, preparation of discussion papers, and travel. Funding of these catalytic activities would be through the Secretariat, with in-kind contributions from participating organizations.

Timing of expected outputs

A key set of standard questions and a menu of potential indicators of agricultural biodiversity that may be used by Parties at their national level, and agreed terminology of production environments by 2002.

Reports on the state of the world's genetic resources, as programmed, leading progressively towards a comprehensive assessment and understanding of agricultural biodiversity, with a focus on the goods and services it provides, by 2010.