What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity or biological diversity (Greek BIOS, life) is the diversity of living nature.

Since 1986, the term and concept have gained wide use among biologists, environmentalists, political leaders and conscientious citizens worldwide. This use coincided with the growing concern with extinction observed in the last decades of the twentieth century.

It refers to the variety of life on planet Earth, including the genetic variety within populations and species, the variety of species of flora, fauna, macroscopic fungi and microorganisms, the variety of ecological functions performed by organisms in ecosystems, and the variety of communities, habitats and ecosystems formed by organisms.

How many species are there in the world?

It is not known how many plant and animal species exist in the world. Estimates range from 10 million to 50 million, but so far scientists have classified and named only 2 million species. Among experts, Brazil is considered the country of "megadiversity": approximately 20% of the known species in the world are here. For example, the therapeutic potential of Amazonian plants is well known.

To understand what biodiversity is, we must consider the term on two different levels: all life forms, as well as the genes contained in each individual, and the interrelationships, or ecosystems, in which the existence of a species directly affects many others.
Biological diversity is present everywhere: in the middle of deserts, in frozen tundras or in sulphurous water sources. Genetic diversity has made it possible for life to adapt to the most diverse parts of the planet.

Plants, for example, are at the base of ecosystems. As they bloom more intensely in humid and warm areas, the greatest diversity is detected in the tropics, as is the case of the Amazon and its exceptional vegetation.

What are the main threats to biodiversity?

Pollution, overuse of natural resources, expansion of the agricultural frontier to the detriment of natural habitats, urban and industrial expansion, are all driving many plant and animal species to extinction. Each year approximately 17 million hectares of rainforest are cleared. Estimates suggest that if this continues, between 5% and 10% of species that inhabit tropical forests could be extinct within the next 30 years.
Modern society - particularly rich countries - wastes a great deal of natural resources. High paper production and use, for example, is a constant threat to forests. Excessive exploitation of some species can also cause their complete extinction. Because of the medicinal use of rhino horns in Sumatra and Java, for example, the animal was hunted to the brink of extinction. Pollution is another serious threat to the planet's biodiversity. In Sweden, water pollution and acidity prevent the survival of fish and plants in the country's four thousand lakes.
The introduction of animal and plant species into different ecosystems can also be harmful, as it endangers the biodiversity of an entire area, region or country. A well-known case is the importation of the cane toad by the Australian government to control a plague on sugarcane plantations in the northeast of the country. The animal turned out to be a voracious predator of the region's reptiles and amphibians, making it a problem for producers rather than a solution.

What is the biodiversity convention?

The Convention on Biological Diversity is the first legal instrument to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. More than 160 countries signed the agreement, which entered into force in December 1993. The kick-off for the creation of the Convention came in June 1992, when Brazil organized and hosted a United Nations Conference, Rio-92, to reconcile. worldwide efforts to protect the environment with socioeconomic development.
However, it is not yet clear how the Convention on Diversity should be implemented. Forest destruction, for example, is growing at alarming levels. Countries that have signed the agreement show no political will to adopt the work program established by the Convention, which aims to ensure the proper use and protection of natural resources in forests, coastal zone and rivers and lakes.
WWF-Brazil and its international network have been following the developments of this Convention since its inception. In addition to participating in the Conference negotiations, the organization develops parallel actions such as debates, publications or exhibitions. In 2006, the meeting took place in Curitiba, PR.