Looking back: foundational Biodiversity Revisited Background Reviews published

The diversity of life that sustains humanity is being severely degraded by human activity. This is leading to a deterioration in land, air and water quality, loss of natural ecosystems and widespread declines in populations of wild species.

About the publication

A new publication by the Luc Hoffmann Institute – Biodiversity Revisited Background Reviews – comprises a set of essays that formed the foundation of Biodiversity Revisited, an initiative that examined why the world has failed to stop biodiversity loss and what large-scale changes are needed to sustain diverse and just futures for life on Earth. The six reviews within the newly published report served as a foundational contribution to Biodiversity Revisited. They examine the history, trends, key points and ideas related to each of the initiative’s six themes: concepts, narratives, science, governance, systems and futures. 

What is Biodiversity Revisited?

Biodiversity Revisited carried out the first comprehensive review of the concepts, research, policies and practices underpinning biodiversity conservation since the term emerged in the 1980s. Over the course of 2019–2020, the initiative convened 300 experts of 46 nationalities with a focus on elevating the voices of early-career professionals and bringing together an interdisciplinary mix of expertise from across social and biophysical sciences, the humanities and law. 

Context for the Background Reviews

This new report is a compilation of six background reviews conducted to inform the co-production of the initiative’s five-year research agenda, published in July 2020, which outlines a new way of thinking and acting to address the urgent, complex and interconnected challenges facing humanity. 

The Background Reviews served as discussion inputs for the September 2019 Biodiversity Revisited Symposium. They were designed to surface areas of convergence and divergence of thought, and eventually became the basis for several subsequently published manuscripts by the authors, as well as Seeds of Change, a set of provocative essays that preceded the research agenda.

Why now?

Biodiversity Revisited was conceived as a contribution to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) meeting slated to be held in October 2020 in Kunming, China. It was to be the pinnacle of years of research, synthesis and dialogue that would lead to a strengthened commitment from the global community. As it happened, nature had other plans, and the COVID-19 pandemic pushed COP15 back to October 2021.

With society continuing to undergo seismic shifts in every aspect of life, holistic collaboration across sectors, disciplines and communities is more important than ever. The Luc Hoffmann Institute has retroactively published these Background Reviews to acknowledge where we have come from and to further inspire biodiversity researchers to question, evolve and bring new learning to the ongoing challenges facing all life on Earth today.


Biodiversity Revisited was led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in collaboration with WWF, Future Earth, ETH Zürich Department of Environmental Systems Science, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London. This initiative was generously supported by the NOMIS Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Foundation for Environmental Conservation and The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.