22 May is the International Day for Biological Diversity. It is an occasion to celebrate biodiversity, as well as a call-to-arms to halt its decline.
Biodiversity is valuable, both in economic terms and in how people perceive it. Humans benefit directly from many individual species. Each species also contributes to the functioning of the ecosystem to which it belongs, including regulation of population sizes, recycling of nutrients, erosion control and pollination.
Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, are responsible for 10 per cent of agricultural profits worldwide, representing £120 billion, with additional value equivalent to roughly £200 billion delivered in the form of food surpluses.
Native predators provide free pest control, reducing crop loss to insects by as much as 300 per cent, worth more than £3 billion in the United States alone.
Surveys have shown that people are willing to pay for biodiversity.
Tens of thousands of species are lost annually. Most of the species under threat are concentrated in Africa and South America, continents witnessing enormous human population and consumption growth, leading to habitat destruction and climate change.
Tiny invertebrates, including insects, have declined by nearly a half worldwide in the last 35 years, while the human population has doubled over the same period.
A decline in pollinators and pest-controlling predators will leave the world less able to sustainably feed a growing human population, while loss of amphibians threatens the availability of clean water, and loss of plant species may increase land erosion and impede the discovery of new medicines.
Human population growth is recognized as a major threat to biodiversity, but addressing it is often dismissed as a solution because of perceived political infeasibility.
Population Matters is working to break this taboo and put population on the table with other environmental policy solutions by raising awareness of the link between population and environmental degradation, calling for the empowerment of women and better sex education in schools, lobbying for foreign aid that meets unmet demand for family planning materials, and highlighting the benefits of choosing a smaller family size.