The Functions and Values of Biodiversity – A Consultants View

Posted by Sara King BSc (Hons) MCIEEM on 20/01/2015

Ecosulis recently attended the Oxford University 2015 Biosymposium 2015 which focused on the functions and values of biodiversity. This subject has a wide expanse of viewpoints and information associated with it, from biologists and biochemists, to economist and philosophers. Flooded with information and lively debate from all viewpoints, the symposium supported an array of debate and discussion on the subject. This can make it quite difficult to see a way forward, and a way to make a difference. Maybe we don’t need to agree on how we get there, but we need to acknowledge that there is a common vision and journey – to stop losing the battle for biodiversity.

We know that biodiversity is important, and we know that services provided by nature are vital to our existence. Several medical and technological advances have originated from natural processes and functions. Several advances in medicines, such as the treatment of cancer, have resulted from studying natural molecular structure, for example. But we also know that nature provides us other services, such as pollination, flood prevention, and contribute to our wellbeing. Instead of nature vs development, we need to think of nature, people and economic development coexisting. 

So, we know that nature has a value and we know that we can’t live without it. How do we turn this vision into a practical solution? How do we genuinely achieve the aim to leave the next generation with biodiversity and natural assets at least equivalent to or better that what we have? The starting point has to be to look at how we assess the quality of habitats, so that we can establish their value. We also need to look at a national strategy to ensure that areas with highest quality are enhance and protected through processes such as rewilding and off-setting. We currently have a network of protected sites that are in unfavourable condition or are fragmented from other suitable habitats.

Ecosulis has developed a Biodiversity Quality Calculator which assesses several measures of biodiversity, not just species richness which is often used. Our aim is to use this to assess the biodiversity quality of habitats, to show which habitats support the highest biodiversity. Once we have established a baseline of biodiversity quality across sites, we can use this to measure and influence change in ecological value. For example, if we create additional reedbeds within a lake do we actually provide a biodiversity improvement? Which areas of landholdings have the highest biodiversity (and must be protected), and which have lower value to be improved? If we establish a baseline of what we have, then we can show tangible change. This can be presented to support funding applications, inform future management regimes, and hopefully increase awareness of the importance of improving biodiversity.

Overall, the symposium has encouraged and inspired debates and thoughts about how/ should we value nature. But, there is a long way to go to improve biodiversity and we must place a value on nature to ensure that it is recognised across disciplines, protected and enhanced.

Other related blogs:

Biodiversity Measurement and the IPBES

Habitat Creation and Restoration Potential