Biodiversity Revisited: sparking a new approach to research for the biosphere


The issue

The biosphere – the thin film of life that envelops our planet and sustains humanity – is being severely degraded by humans. Land, air and water quality are deteriorating; there is ongoing loss of natural ecosystems; and extinctions and widespread declines in populations of wild species continue. A significant portion of this degradation, particularly of habitats and species, is generally described as biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability within living organisms that is believed to contribute to the stability and resilience of living systems, offering insurance against predictable and unpredictable future environmental change. It also directly supports human livelihoods and wellbeing. There have been some responses to biodiversity loss but these have been piecemeal and ineffective. This may be because the concept of biodiversity is vague and the systems involved are complex – there is still only a basic understanding of what constitutes a dangerous degree of biodiversity loss. It is therefore not surprising that concern about biodiversity is not widely shared within society. It also explains why governments and businesses are able to ignore the issue.

A significant community of researchers, NGOs and others are deeply concerned about the lack of traction that biodiversity has in policy and mainstream economic activity. The framing of biodiversity may have taken us down the wrong path in terms of the issues to which society ought to be paying attention. This may have made it more difficult for a holistic framing around nature, the biosphere or the Earth system to gain momentum.

The response

To address this situation, Biodiversity Revisited will critically examine the biodiversity narrative and consider what it would take to move closer to a new, innovative agenda around sustaining the biosphere. What would such a framing look like and what would its new science encompass?

The project will convene interdisciplinary experts in an intensive collaborative research process to critically evaluate what has come before – and to think creatively about the future of the science and policy that underpin biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity Revisited will create a new research agenda for society to effectively sustain the biosphere.

The project aims to deliver the following outcomes:

  1. New awareness and thinking about biodiversity from concept through measurement to implementation;
  2. Fresh ideas and a five-year research agenda in the context of the 2020 processes for biodiversity, climate and land; and
  3. More effective and targeted research for the equitable and effective management of the biosphere as the foundation for human development, security and life on Earth.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute provides the role of the secretariat for this project, working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Future Earth, ETH Zurich Department of Environmental Systems Science, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute (UCCR) and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London (CBER).

The major part of the work is funded by the NOMIS Foundation with contributions from the MAVA Foundation, WWF-International, ETH Zurich and others. Further fundraising is still required to meet the partners’ ambitions for broad regional representation in the programme.

For more information please visit the Biodiversity Revisited website or contact:

Credit David Clode on Unsplash

Related reading

Biodiversity Revisited website

Biodiversity revisited – biodiversity accelerated – thought piece by Jon Hutton, Director, Luc Hoffmann Institute

Luc Hoffmann InstituteBiodiversity Revisited: sparking a new approach to research for the biosphere