What is biodiversity?
Seeking an ecological balance
"Variety is the spice of life," as the old saying goes. And that explains why various forms of life on Earth – insects, plants, mammals, amphibians, and even microorganisms – can interact and live harmoniously. This is known as ecological balance, and this interaction is fundamental not only for their survival and development but also for ours. This is why it's so important to preserve that harmony, although nowadays it's being threatened by the direct action of human beings and global warming.
What is biodiversity?
The United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources."
In other words, it refers to the wide variety of living things that inhabit our planet.
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the "Earth Summit," was held in Río de Janeiro. Major agreements were reached at this meeting, such as the Climate Change Convention and the so-called Convention on Biological Diversity. The latter has three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. Ratified by 196 countries, its aim is to promote measures for a sustainable future in which the conservation of biodiversity is a priority. Its signing on May 22, 1994, led the UN General Assembly to declare May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity.
Earth's species are not equally distributed around the globe. In fact, 10% of the planet's surface is home to 70% of its biodiversity. That's why its protection has become so essential in the so-called "mega-diverse countries," where biodiversity is more abundant. They total 17 and hold two thirds of all non-fish vertebrate species and three quarters of all higher plant species.
But, how can we find out how much biodiversity there is in one specific area? There are various indices, such as the Shannon–Wiener, that take into account the number of species and the relative abundance of each in a given area.
Types of biodiversity
Within the realm of biodiversity, we can differentiate between genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity. Let's take a look at each:
On the other hand, scientists often use another system for classifying diversity:
Importance of biodiversity
Biodiversity is fundamental for the planet. In fact, its loss has become the third most important risk worldwide in 2022, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Moreover, biological balance is necessary for diverse and crucial aspects such as health, nutrition, and safety, among others. For example, if coral reefs disappear, one fourth of marine species on the planet will also disappear. On top of that, the coast would lose its protection against the impact of waves and tsunamis. The same happens with forests, which regulate temperatures and climates while protecting the soil from erosion and serving as a refuge and food for many other species. In a nutshell, greater biodiversity offsets the vulnerability of ecosystems against major environmental changes.
There are different aspects in which care and preservation of biodiversity can have repercussions on both society and the environment. Here are three types:
Biodiversity, sustainable development, and climate change
Today, biodiversity is undermined by a range of factors including climate change, overexploitation of resources, introduction and subsequent proliferation of invasive species outside their usual habitat, and pollution, among others. For example, the change in how soil is used is one of the main factors for biodiversity loss. This is why it is fundamental to take action against these and other factors, known as drivers of change, with measures such as these:
Repsol's biodiversity promotion projects
At Repsol, we know how important it is to preserve biodiversity and to fight climate change, which is why we dedicate many of our efforts to conserving natural resources, such as in the following cases: