small tortoiseshell at eryngium. Copyright by Jaresm. Free Images.

biodiversity at 2021!

What does biodiversity mean? The Austrian Ecolabel takes a look at this frequently used term and will increasingly deal with it in 2021.

What is biodiversity?

Simply put: biological diversity. But what does that mean in plain language?

"All species and levels of organisation of living organisms, as well as their genetic diversity, the diversity of habitats and the processes operating in these systems." [1]

This term includes several levels of diversity. The following explanations (three points) are cited by the Biodiversity Network Austria:

  • Genetic diversity. Variability within the same species

"High genetic diversity means higher resilience and adaptability to changing living and environmental conditions or to external threats and disturbances such as pathogens, climate change or pollution, and is important for avoiding inbreeding."

  • Species diversity. Variety of different animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms.

"Worldwide, 1.75 million species are scientifically recorded; the actual number of species is unknown. Estimates range from 2.5 to 30 million species worldwide. Austria is a relatively species-rich country for Europe. This is due to its central location and the varied landscape structure. In Austria, the number of different species is estimated at 68,000. Of these, about 46,000 are animal species and 21,000 plant and fungal species."

  • Ecosystem diversity. Variety of different habitats with different species composition and processes taking place therein.

"An ecosystem is formed from biotope (specific delimited habitat of a biotic community) and biocenosis (biology of the biotic communities of living organisms within a biotope). It is therefore an interaction of living organisms with each other and with their environment. In Austria there are 488 different types of biotopes. Ecosystems include rivers, forests or meadows, but depending on the perspective, they can also be smaller structures such as dead tree trunks or water puddles. Ecosystem diversity is a requirement for biodiversity and genetic diversity." [2]

Threats to biodiversity - Biodiversity crisis

Biodiversity is threatened in many different ways. Be it the large-scale forest fires in the tropical rainforests, the overfishing of the world's oceans or the sealing of 5.4 hectares (!) of land per day in Austria! [3] In summary, the threat is described by the terms destruction, overuse, fragmentation and land sealing of habitats and ecosystems. Added to this are the dangers posed by invasive species (neobiota) and the increased impact of the climate crisis.

wet forrests. Copyright by Rudy Tiben. Free Images.

Mostly, wet forests, for example, are considered uneconomical and are therefore drained.

In order to obtain a measure, a knowledge of the degree of endangerment, the red lists were created. The Red Lists record the endangerment of species and habitats. These lists exist at regional and national level, and there are also European lists. Unfortunately, the Red Lists in Austria show mostly negative developments and threatening conditions.

"In Austria, about half of the approximately 500 biotope types are threatened with complete destruction, highly endangered or endangered." [4]

Unfortunately, the situation is no better in the animal world. The following figures (2013) on the selected animal groups show the proportion in the "Vulnerable - Endangered" category or higher:

  • 37 % of mammals
  • 36 % of birds
  • 64 % of reptiles
  • 60 % of amphibians
  • 60 % of fish [5]

Biodiversity & climate

Protecting biodiversity means, on the one hand, reducing climate-damaging activities and, on the other hand, strengthening adaptability to future climatic conditions. As you can see, the issues are closely linked and influence each other. If, for example, land sealing is reduced, energy-intensive resources are saved and land consumption (mostly at the expense of grassland) is minimised. Exploiting and strengthening the synergies between nature conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation are more cost-effective alternatives and at least complements to technological measures.

What to do? - Outlook

mallard ducks feeding. Copyright by Jeff Jones. Free Images.

Turn a blind eye? No, the worrying figures show that there is much to be done! We humans live from the diversity of life, despite our mechanised society. The protection of biodiversity must not be seen as a luxury problem, but as a primary goal for long-term survival. Or as Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler puts it:

"Diversity concerns us all. Environmental protection is species conservation and at the same time biodiversity is our life insurance. It ensures us healthy food and clean air, protects us from natural hazards and helps us adapt to climate change." [6]

In 2021, the Austrian Ecolabel will focus on biodiversity and present various options for action.

You can look forward to interesting and stimulating contributions!