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About biodiversity

(Adopted from IUCN international, Available at


Biodiversity is the foundation of life on Earth. It is crucial for the functioning of ecosystems which provide us with products and services without which we couldn’t live. Oxygen, food, fresh water, fertile soil, medicines, shelter, protection from storms and floods, stable climate and recreation - all have their source in nature and healthy ecosystems. But biodiversity gives us much more than this. We depend on it for our security and health; it strongly affects our social relations and gives us freedom and choice.

Biodiversity is extremely complex, dynamic and varied like no other feature of the Earth. Its innumerable plants, animals and microbes physically and chemically unite the atmosphere (the mixture of gases around the Earth), geosphere (the solid part of the Earth), and hydrosphere (the Earth's water, ice and water vapour) into one environmental system which makes it possible for millions of species, including people, to exist.

At the same time, no other feature of the Earth has been so dramatically influenced by man’s activities. By changing biodiversity, we strongly affect human well-being and the well-being of every other living creature.


Biodiversity is everywhere. It occurs both on land and in water, from high altitudes to deep ocean trenches and it includes all organisms, from microscopic bacteria to more complex plants. Although many tools and data sources have been developed, biodiversity remains difficult to measure precisely. According to the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, the total number of species on Earth ranges from five to 30 million and only 1.7–2 million species have been formally identified.

But we do not need precise figures and answers to devise an effective understanding of where biodiversity is, how it is changing over space and time, what are the drivers responsible for this change, its consequences for ecosystem services and human well-being, and the available response options.

There are many measures of biodiversity. Species richness (the number of species in a given area) represents a single but important metric that is valuable as the common currency of the diversity of life—but to fully capture biodiversity, it must be integrated with other metrics.

IUCN has access to many different kinds of information on species. The Red List of Threatened Species™ provides global assessments of the conservation status of species. The IUCN Species Survival Commission, together with the Species Programme and their partners have developed a number of approaches to build up a comprehensive picture of the status and trends in species and biodiversity at global, regional and national levels.

Unlike foods and other products that we buy in supermarkets, many ecosystem services have no price tag attached to them. This means that the importance of biodiversity and natural processes in providing benefits to people is ignored by financial markets. If the full economic value of these services was taken into account in decision-making, the degradation of ecosystem services could be significantly slowed down or even reversed.



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Copyright © 2011 Sustainable Management of Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and Habitats through Policy and Legislative Development for Mainstreaming in Lebanon
Last modified: 09/11/11