We depend on biological diversity – or biodiversity – for the food, energy, raw materials, air and water that make life possible. It is our life insurance, giving us shelter and medicine, mitigating natural disasters, pests and diseases and contributes to regulating the climate.
Although not recognised by markets, biodiversity is also our natural capital, delivering ecosystem services that underpin our economy.
However biodiversity is in decline around the world, often as a result of human activities. Species are currently being lost 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate. Of the 8 300 animal breeds known across the planet, 8% are extinct and 22% are at risk of extinction. In Europe, almost 25% of European animal species are at risk of extinction, and most ecosystems are degraded.
With the erosion of biodiversity, we lose the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change. If managed correctly, biodiversity could also play a critical role in our fight against hunger, by ensuring environmental sustainability while increasing food production.
Although the EU has made strides in this area, notably through the Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas, we failed to achieve our target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010. Many species and habitats continue to decline significantly.
Research efforts in this area can help us to understand the spectrum of biological diversity, its evolution, and its preservation. The Horizon 2020 programme is encouraging research and innovation in these fields through the sections: Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials and Bioeconomy .
This edition of CORDIS Express takes a look at the biodiversity projects in motion around Europe.