BIO0040

Fauna & Flora International: Written Evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee Inquiry into Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Introduction

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation, founded in 1903. Our mission is to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science, and which take into account human needs. Headquartered in Cambridge, UK, we work in more than 40 countries across Africa, the Americas, Eurasia and Asia-Pacific, working with over 300 partners including governments, businesses and local civil society groups on over 140 conservation projects.

FFI welcomes the inquiry into biodiversity and ecosystems by the parliamentary environment audit committee. But it is important to start with clarity of what these terms refer to. FFI understands ecosystems as biological communities of organisms (including people) interacting with each other and their physical environment. The (ecosystem) services these interactions generate ultimately support almost every aspect of human society. Biodiversity refers to the level of diversity of life within these systems.[1] The level of diversity (living and non-living) plays an important role in ecosystem productivity, adaptability and resilience. If ecosystems are considered an asset, biodiversity is one measure of the quality of that asset. Whilst the formal definition of biodiversity is commonly cited, in common parlance, including major international reports, the term ‘biodiversity’ is more often used to describe something broader than a measure of ecosystem quality. It is more generally taken to refer to all life, used interchangeably with broader terms such as ‘nature’. FFI is ultimately concerned with the conservation, management and equitable use of nature, but recognises the maintenance of high diversity within nature as a crucial component of this.

In the last 50 years, the impacts of human activity on these systems has outstripped their inherent capacity to regenerate and recuperate. Some of the most immediate implications of this imbalance, such as the impact of greenhouse gases on planetary temperatures, are now being recognised and acted upon. Other implications, such as the declines in biodiversity and the associated losses of ecosystems and their services, are have taken longer to acknowledge, being infinitely more complex and much harder to monitor. Yet all these implications are interconnected and systemic in nature. Global heating is exacerbating biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation is exacerbating global heating and reducing resilience to the effects of global heating. The people most likely to be driving the changes tend to be the richest and best equipped to adapt. The people most likely to suffer the initial consequences are those that are poorest and most vulnerable change.

Awareness and action on biodiversity and ecosystem loss has been growing steadily. The Sustainable Development Goals recognise life on land and in water as two of the 17 tenets of sustainable development. The Convention on Biological Diversity is setting new targets for the coming decade. TEEB and now the Dasgupta Review have introduced a new ‘grammar’ to help policy makers understand the economic value of biodiversity whilst the World Economic Forum and others are working to develop the business case for action for the private sector. But it is not enough to see biodiversity and ecosystems as one goal of sustainable development, particularly when other goals can be contradictory. It is not enough to set loosely defined international targets for biodiversity and then to spend less on delivering the targets than is spent subsidising the very activities that are most responsible for biodiversity declines. It is not enough to base political and financial decision making on biodiversity only on the cases where economic value can be quantified. And it is not enough to see biodiversity loss as just ‘the next climate change’ risk for business and finance. Ecosystems, and the biodiversity that comprises them, are the heart of the system we call our environment, a system we are both embedded in and wholly reliant upon. Recognition of their fundamental importance to not only the well-being but also the survival of human society is crucial.

The answers given to the requested questions do not necessarily represent FFI thinking as a whole and do not attempt to be complete answers. Instead we focus on giving a general position and try to provide evidence the committee may not find elsewhere if available to us.

The state of biodiversity

 

 

Evaluating measures to conserve and enhance biodiversity

 

Co-ordination of UK environmental policy

Economics and biodiversity

Pairing nature-based solutions to climate change with biodiversity

 

September 2020

 

 


[1] There is also a corollary, geodiversity, which refers to the level of diversity of non-living components of a system.

[2] See Bolt et al, (2016) Biodiversity at the heart of natural capital, CCI