Biodiversity is disappearing: FAO warns

La biodiversità sta scomparendo: l'allarme della FAO

Biodiversity is disappearing: FAO warns

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Biodiversity is decreasing and the losses will be counted in animal, plant and microorganism species and will be forever. This is what emerges from the latest FAO report, focused on the analysis of the condition of those organisms that allow nutrition and agricultural production, at the genetic level, of species and ecosystems, entitled "State of global biodiversity for food and agriculture ”.

A not exactly rosy horizon for man, who is starting to deal concretely with a lifestyle that has not taken particular account of the ecosystem he inhabits, on which indeed he has often imposed himself.

The study in question is based on the analysis of data from 91 countries, which shows that 24% of approximately 4,000 species of wild food (plants, fish and mammals) are declining. Biodiversity is the basis of the balance that supports life on Earth and therefore "the future of our food, means of subsistence, human health and the environment. Once lost - warns the Report - food and agricultural biodiversity cannot be recovered ”.

A cry of alarm from the FAO, especially if you read the numbers: of the approximately 6,000 species of plants cultivated for food, less than 200 represent a substantial resource for food, furthermore consider that only 9 of these represent a good 66% of global production. As far as livestock farming is concerned, global production is based on around 40 animal species: only a very small part of these provide the largest portion of the production of meat, milk and eggs. While of the 7,745 local livestock breeds, as many as 26% risk extinction. The situation in the fishing sector is almost worse: almost a third of the stocks are over-exploited, while more than half have reached the limit of sustainability.

The Director General of FAO, Josè Graziano da Silva, concludes: “Biodiversity is fundamental for safeguarding global food security. We must use it sustainably, to better respond to the growing challenges of climate change and produce food without harming the environment."

Main causes of the loss of biodiversity

The key drivers of biodiversity loss cited by most countries are: changes in land and water use and management, followed by pollution, overexploitation, climate change, population growth and urbanisation.

In the case of associated biodiversity, while all regions report habitat alteration and loss as major threats, other key factors depend on the specific geographic area. Examples are overexploitation, hunting and poaching in Africa; deforestation, land use changes and agricultural intensification in Europe and Central Asia; overexploitation, pests, diseases and invasive species in Latin America and the Caribbean; overexploitation in the Near East and North Africa and deforestation in Asia.

Good practices are on the rise

Some good news emerges from the report: there is a growing interest in practices and approaches compatible with biodiversity: 80% of the 91 countries declare that they use one or more practices and approaches that respect biodiversity such as organic farming, the use of “good” insects, conservative agriculture, sustainable soil management, agro-ecology, more sustainable forest management, agro-forestry, diversification practices in aquaculture, an eco-systemic approach to fishing and wildlife restoration 'ecosystem.

Coldiretti warns: In Italy 3 out of 4 fruits have disappeared

On the same day as the FAO conference, Coldiretti also launched a powerful message: "In Italy, three out of four fruit varieties have disappeared from the table in the last century, also due to the effect of modern destruction systems which favor large quantities and standardization of the offer".

“In Italy, in the last century - he continues - there were 8,000 varieties of fruit, while today there are just under 2,000. Of these, 1,500 are considered at risk of disappearing, but the loss of biodiversity affects the entire agricultural system. A danger that also concerns the 1.7 million cows, pigs, sheep and goats that have disappeared in the last ten years. As many as 130 farmed breeds are threatened with extinction. A danger - according to Coldiretti - for producers and consumers due to the loss of a Made in Italy food, cultural and environmental heritage ”.

Conservation efforts, both on-site (e.g. protected areas, farm management) and off-site (e.g. gene banks, zoos, crop collections, botanical gardens) are increasing globally, although levels of coverage and protection are often inadequate.

Biodiversity loss: how to reverse the trend

Do more to strengthen legislation, create incentives and benefit- sharing measures, promote initiatives in favor of biodiversity and address the main causes of its loss: this is what the FAO report urges us to do, inviting governments and the international community to take action.
Efforts also need to be stepped up to improve the state of knowledge on biodiversity, as many information gaps remain, particularly for species associated with it. Many of these species have never been identified and described , particularly invertebrates and microorganisms . Over 99% of bacteria and protist species, and their impacts on food and agriculture, remain unknown.
Suggestions include improving collaboration between policy makers, producer organisations, consumers, the private sector and civil society organizations in the food, agriculture and environmental sectors.
Furthermore, according to the FAO, it would be necessary to explore the opportunities to develop more markets for products compatible with biodiversity.
The public can also reduce pressures on food and agricultural biodiversity. Consumers can in fact opt ​​for sustainably grown products, buy from farmers markets or boycott foods considered unsustainable. In several countries, "citizen scientists" play an important role in monitoring food and agricultural biodiversity.
Examples of

In Gambia , huge losses of wild foods have forced communities to turn to alternatives, often industrially produced foods, to supplement diets.
In Egypt , rising temperatures will lead to northward shifts of fish species ranges, impacting production.
In Nepal , labor shortages, flows of remittances from abroad and the growing availability of cheap alternative products on local markets have contributed to the abandonment of many local crops.
In the Amazon forests of Peru , climate change is predicted to lead to "savanization", with negative impacts on wild food supplies.
California farmers allow their rice fields to flood in the winter instead of being burned after the growing season. This allows us to have 111 thousand hectares of wetlands and open space for 230 species of birds, many at risk of extinction. As a result, many species have increased and the number of ducks has doubled.
In France , approximately 300 thousand hectares of land are managed using agro-ecological principles.
In Kiribati , integrated farming of shellfish, marsh fish, sea cucumbers and seaweed ensures regular food and income, despite changing weather conditions, at least one component of the system always produces food.

Biodiversity is a very delicate heritage of inestimable value, on which we all depend, which we should preserve, also thanks to the conscious purchase and consumption of local and certified organic products, always remembering that we are guests on this Earth.


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