What is Biodiversity

Biodiversity is all around us and we are part of it.

It is made up of three main elements:


The different types of species which live on Earth:

  • animals
  • plants
  • vegetables
  • fungi
  • algae
  • bacteria
  • viruses

The differences in species

The differences between individuals of the same species:

  • size
  • shape
  • colour


Different ecosystems and the species which live in them and their interactions.

  • oceans
  • forests
  • coral reefs
  • deserts

Biodiversity in numbers

Scientists have recorded around 1.9 million different living species on Earth, but the real number is certain to be much, much higher. Many are microscopic or live deep underground or in the oceans, others have simply not yet been discovered.

Why is biodiversity so important?

The result of 3.8 billion years of evolution, biodiversity is essential to human survival. We rely on nature for many essential resources, including food, building materials, warmth, textiles or the active ingredients in medicines. In addition, there are other vital functions that nature provides, from the pollination of plants, to the filtering of air, water and soil, to protection against floods. Life as we know it on Earth would be impossible without these essential materials and services. Unfortunately, all too often we forget what nature gives us. In our industrialised societies, biodiversity is taken for granted, and seen as something free and eternal. However, the reality is that the pressures we put on nature are increasing and many human activities are posing a major threat to the existence of numerous species. The list of pressures on biodiversity is long and includes the destruction and fragmentation of habitats; pollution of the air, water and land; overfishing and overuse of resources, forests and land; the introduction of non-native species; and the release of increasing amounts of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

Text from ‘52 Tips for Biodiversity’ produced by the European Commission Directorate-General Environment

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