Key Terms

Agricultural biodiversity

We depend on a diverse range of natural resources for food, fuel, medicine and provision of liveable ecosystems.

Maintaining biodiversity is important for our survival and the future of our planet. Agricultural biodiversity is the product of the dynamic management of species and ecosystems relevant to food and agriculture. It includes plants, animals, and microorganisms, and the enormous diversity of genes within these species; organisms that are necessary for key farming methods, such as pest and disease regulation, pollination and nutrient cycling; and the world’s ecosystems, including deserts, rainforests, and coral reefs.

Here we explain why declining biodiversity caused by climate change and overexploitation is an increasing concern for investors.

The link between biodiversity and sustainability

Every species, no matter how small, plays a role in maintaining ecosystems that support animal and human life. Together they carry out natural processes to protect water resources, soil formation, nutrient storage and recycling, and pollution breakdown and absorption; to provide us with food and medicine; and add to our economy. A healthy biodiversity therefore contributes to the maintenance of ecosystems, climate stability, food security, adequate nutrition, and sustainable livelihoods.

Why agricultural biodiversity is important

Biodiversity and agriculture are strongly interdependent. Biodiversity is the origin of all species and varieties of crops and livestock. Agriculture, in turn, can promote biodiversity.

Of the 250,000 to 300,000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are thought to be widely used by humans. Just 12 plants and five animal species provide three-quarters of the world’s food, with more than half of the world’s calories coming from a limited number of varieties of three “mega-crops”: rice, wheat, and maize. At the same time, 30% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction.

The global food supply is increasingly under threat from world population growth, climate change, and the introduction and spread of disease. Agricultural biodiversity is vital to ensuring a robust food security system capable of meeting human nutritional needs and safeguarding genetic traits that could be used to combat future outbreaks.