Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is one of the key terms in conservation, encompassing the richness of life and the diverse patterns it forms. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biological diversity as "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems".
Europe hosts a unique set of natural diversity, including hot spots like the Mediterranean. The 12 new Member States bring new biodiversity riches to the EU. However, biodiversity loss has accelerated to an unprecedented level, both in Europe and worldwide. It has been estimated that the current global extinction rate is 1000 to 10000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate. In Europe some 42% of European mammals are endangered, together with 15% of birds and 45% of butterflies and reptiles. The Arctic fox, the Iberian lynx, native squirrel are all under serious threat. There are only a few hundred lynx left, for example, living in four pockets of land in Spain. Cut off from one another, the big cat communities are being weakened by inbreeding.
Biodiversity matters for Ethical, Emotional, Environmental and Economic. Ecosystems have intrinsic value. They provide emotional and aesthetic experiences. They offer outstanding opportunities for recreation. They clean our water, purify our air and maintain our soils. They regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. They provide raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes. They form the foundation on which we build our societies.