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Biodiversity is the Basis of Agriculture

Around 7,000 species of plants have been cultivated and about 30 to 40 species of mammals and birds have been domesticated for food production.


Picture provided by CGIAR

Biodiversity, at all three levels—genes, species, and ecosystems—is the basis for the sustainability, productivity and resilience of agricultural systems, and is the foundation of ecosystem services essential to agriculture and human well being. Biodiversity is the origin of all crops and domesticated livestock (species) and the variety within them (genes).

Agriculture is an integral part of every person’s life as it provides us with food, raw materials for goods—such as cotton for clothing, wood for shelter and fuel, roots for medicines—as well as incomes and livelihoods for many. From the earliest examples of the domestication of plants and animals, farmers and their communities have used a rich diversity of wild species to facilitate agriculture and in the process have modified the diversity of domesticated species, landscapes and environments.

Farmers and farming communities have created a large diversity of agricultural systems ranging for example from the rice paddies of Asia to dryland pastoral systems of Africa and hill farms in the mountains of South America. About 25% of the Earths’ land surface is covered by cultivated systems. The challenge for farmers and their communities has always been to manage agricultural systems and their associated landscapes in a sustainable manner, to ensure resources and ecosystem services for future generations.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme