Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Biodiversity and ecosystem services

Agricultural biodiversity (the biodiversity associated with agricultural ecosystems) is indispensable for plant stability, and therefore sustaining crop production, food security and livelihoods for everyone.

The productivity of agricultural ecosystems depends on numerous species, such as soil micro-organisms, pollinators, predators of agricultural pests and the genetic diversity of the crops and livestock. Agricultural ecosystems serve as important habitats for many wild plant and animal species.

Wild species found in agricultural lands and nearby forests, wetlands and other natural habitats play a critical role in food security for many low-income farmers and rural people, as animal feed, fuel, raw materials for processing, and to provide supplemental food during “lean” periods before the harvest or in crop failures.

Wild species are sometimes used to provide valuable genetic resources, for instance for certain plant breeding. When preserved, these can help meet future food and livestock production challenges, including adapting to climate change.

The first gene banks to preserve plant biodiversity were created by breeders in the 1930s. Today, more than 6 million samples of different crops are currently maintained in collections in some 1,500 gene banks around the world.11 For example, the Millennium Seed Bank in the UK contains over one billion seeds.
Ecosystem services provided by ecosystems other than agriculture, such as clean water, carbon regulation, nutrient cycling or soil maintenance, are equally important to sustaining agricultural ecosystems.

Read more: International Union for Conservation of Nature