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The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture- key facts, figures and more

Biodiversity for food and agriculture is indispensable to food security and sustainable development. It supplies many vital ecosystem services, such as creating and maintaining healthy soils, pollinating plants, controlling pests and providing habitat for wildlife, including for fish and other species that are vital to food production and agricultural livelihoods.

Did you know: 

  1. Analysis of data from a survey in the Tigray region of Ethiopia showed that maintaining a large number of barley varieties reduced the risk of crop failure, with the effect being particularly marked in areas affected by land degradation
  2. Overgrazing is mentioned as a problem by countries from most regions. For example, Spain mentions that stocking rates on its rangelands are higher or lower than those appropriate for local conditions, especially in the Mediterranean region, and that this is leading to land degradation in several locations.
  3. A number of countries note that environmental drivers such as climate change and land degradation are compromising women’s involvement in the use and management of BFA.
  4. Although a figure of 10 percent to 20 percent rangeland degradation is often cited, there is no scientific consensus about the definition or the extent of rangeland degradation
  5. IPBES (2018a) notes that rangelands are among the ecosystems most affected by land degradation and that, in many rangelands, livestock stocking density is at or above the land’s long-term carrying capacity, leading to long-term declines in plant and animal production.
  6. It concludes that “the capacity of rangelands to support livestock will continue to diminish in the future, due to both land degradation and loss of rangeland area
  7. Sustainable Development Goal 15.3 calls on governments to “strive to achieve a degradation neutral world.” In response to the adoption of this goal, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme has received commitments from 121 countries to date, and is rolling out technical support to refine these commitments and plan their implementation
  8. Severe soil erosion and land degradation linked to soil-disturbing practices, such as tillage and lack of maintenance of soil cover – along with the increasing costs and poor climate-change adaptability of conventional tillage agriculture – have led to the widespread introduction of conservation agriculture worldwide over the last three decades.

Biodiversity makes production systems and livelihoods more resilient to shocks and stresses, including those caused by climate change. It is a key resource in efforts to increase food production while limiting negative impacts on the environment. It makes a variety of contributions to the livelihoods of many people, often reducing the need for food and agricultural producers to rely on costly or environmentally harmful external inputs.

Key facts and figures;

  • More than 6000 plant species have been cultivated for food.
  • Fewer than 200 make major contributions to food production globally, regionally or nationally.
  • Only 9 account for 66% of total crop production.
  • Nearly a third of fish stocks are overfished and a third of freshwater fish species assessed are considered threatened.
  • 7 745 local breeds of livestock are still in existence.
  • 26% of these are at risk of extinction.The risk status of 67% is unknown
  • Only 7% are not at risk

Wild foods contribute to food security both via direct consumption (on a regular basis or as an emergency measure in times of scarcity) and by being sold to buy other food. Many wild foods are rich in micronutrients, some containing more than their cultivated counterparts. Eating them can alleviate micronutrient and/or protein deficiencies and thus make diets more nutritious and balanced. However, there are many concerns about the unsustainable use of wild foods. Contributing countries reported 3 980 wild food species (2 822 distinct species, as several are reported by more than one country), of which the vast majority are plants, followed by fish and mammals.