Biodiversity Revisited: New frontiers for biodiversity knowledge and action

A two-year collaboration involving nearly 300 people of 46 nationalities has culminated in a new agenda that charts a course for more effective biodiversity research and action for the next five years.

The agenda is the result of Biodiversity Revisited, an initiative conceived by the Luc Hoffmann Institute that has looked at 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 initiative carried out the first comprehensive review of the concepts, research, policies and practices underpinning biodiversity conservation since the term emerged in the 1980s. 

The diversity of life that sustains humanity is being severely degraded by human action. This is leading to a deterioration in land, air and water quality, loss of natural ecosystems and widespread declines in populations of wild species. These changes are well documented and of existential significance to human societies, yet significant knowledge about the problem has not catalysed effective, broad-based action. Biodiversity has not, generally speaking, proved to be a compelling object for sufficient action to halt the degradation of the diversity of life on earth.

This research agenda is based on the premise that humanity is part of biodiversity and that we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. It urges the conservation community to think more broadly and draw on different perspectives, such as the political, legal, economic, social, cultural, and philosophical.

“This agenda is an invitation to consider a new way of thinking and acting in tackling interconnected challenges, whether local or global,” says Dame Georgina Mace, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems at University College London. “We hope it inspires collaboration between different sectors of society and academia, and invite researchers, policy-makers and funders to take the agenda forward to radically change the way conservation is done.”

A strong interdisciplinary research agenda is critical at a time when global inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and further highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests have reinforced the need for justice to be at the centre of our efforts. With society undergoing seismic shifts in every aspect of life, holistic collaboration across sectors, disciplines and communities is more important than ever if we are to achieve sustainable futures.

The Biodiversity Revisited agenda aims to guide researchers, practitioners and decision-makers in reframing biodiversity research with a holistic approach that puts an emphasis on justice and the inclusion of a diversity of perspectives. 

Four main themes are covered encompassing a series of research questions designed to broaden thinking and collaboration, and encourage a more comprehensive understanding of what constitutes ‘desirable’ futures. 

  • “Revisiting biodiversity narratives” addresses the entrenched concepts and narratives that have separated humans, cultures, economies and societies from nature. 
  • “Anthropocene, biodiversity, and culture” explores perspectives on the fundamental and evolving relationships between biodiversity and human cultures.
  • “Nature and economy” examines the existing economic and financial systems, which are some of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.
  • “Enabling transformative biodiversity research and change” draws all of these together, focusing on what individuals and institutions can do to embrace and open up spaces for transformative change by expanding the knowledge, values and cultures utilised within biodiversity research. 

The agenda advocates changes in the way institutions fund, review and conduct research. These could involve adopting more flexible objectives, unlocking funding for inter- and transdisciplinary research and action, integrating professionals across different career stages, and creating equal opportunities for marginalised voices. While interdisciplinary research is increasing, there continues to be a lag in including non-academic voices in research projects, notably those from marginalised communities.

Download the Biodiversity Revisited research agenda.

Visit Biodiversity Revisited for more information about the initiative and its outputs, including Seeds of Change, a compilation of expert reviews and provocative essays that preceded this agenda.

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.