What is biodiversity and why is it important to the emerging markets?
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is the sum of all life on Earth. When we talk about biodiversity, we refer to the diversity itself, the components of that diversity (plants, animals and genes) and the interactions between them. This diversity is commonly divided into three levels:
Genetic Diversity: The variation of genes both within and between populations of specific plant and animal species.
Species Diversity: The variety of different plant and animal species within a given area.
Ecosystem Diversity: The range of habitats, species populations and ecological processes that occur in a region.
Biodiversity provides a wealth of invaluable goods and services to human society:
Food Water Fiber (e.g. cotton) Medicine Building materials Fuelwood Biochemicals (chemicals derived from plant matter) Genetic resources (e.g. wild rice varietals)
Climate regulation Erosion control Pest regulation Flood control Maintenance of water quality and availability Soil formation Disease regulation Pollination Nutrient cycling
Spiritual and religious Cultural heritage Recreation and ecotourism Aesthetic and inspirational
Genetic diversity to sustain agricultural crops Future pharmaceutical products
These biodiversity-based goods and services are being pressured by human activity [PDF] throughout the world. This pressure is a result of activities at both ends of the economic spectrum — the needs and intentions of successful industrialists and those entrenched in poverty may be quite different, but the consequences for biodiversity will often be the same. And while loss or disruption of these goods and services have significant costs for all sectors of society, depletion of biodiversity and natural resources has a disproportionate impact on the welfare and livelihoods of the rural poor in emerging markets, who are often particularly reliant on the natural world. In addition rural communities, particularly indigenous people, often have a strong spiritual relationship with biodiversity.
Our global understanding of biodiversity is still evolving. Scientists have described only a small fraction of the world's estimated 15 million to 100 million species. As we learn more about the species that share our planet, we have also recognized that biodiversity is not evenly distributed across the globe. Species richness (the total number of species in a given area), and species endemism (those species that are found in only one place on Earth) are concentrated in certain areas, primarily in emerging markets. Therefore, certain areas will be higher priorities for biodiversity conservation than others. These high biodiversity areas have been catalogued in a number of ways by international conservation organizations, including: