Biodiversity and ecosystem services

Biodiversity and ecosystem services

Biodiversity and ecosystem services


Biodiversity is the variety of all living organisms, their habitats and their interactions. Biodiversity and resilient ecosystems support livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, enable access to water and to health, are closely linked to governance and security, and contribute significantly to climate change mitigation and adaptation. For these reasons maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services is crucial to ensuring sustainable livelihoods and the world-wide reduction of poverty.

However, global biodiversity and ecosystem services are under threat due to land use changes, unsustainable use of natural resources, pollution and climate change. Scientists warn that the biodiversity crisis risks causing irreversible changes that will profoundly affect human society.

Around 70% of the world's poor live in rural areas and depend directly on biological diversity for their livelihoods. Moreover, abundant natural resources offer many countries huge potential for growth. However, growth is not sustainable if it damages the environment or depletes resources. Biodiversity and development are closely linked and mutually reinforcing: healthy ecosystems sustain development while development impacts on habitats. Seeing ecosystem conservation and restoration as an opportunity to generate growth, create jobs and reduce poverty through a green economy contributes to the EU's development agenda.

The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 reflects the EU’s commitment to the protection and sustainable management of biodiversity.

The Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development recently launched the new flagship initiative EU Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) which is designed to help the poorest countries protect ecosystems, combat wildlife crime and develop green economies. It takes the novel approach of emphasising the economic benefits of protecting biodiversity and ecosystems in the interest of sustaining livelihoods and reducing poverty.

Halting the loss of nature and biodiversity requires broad commitment by nations, businesses and individual stakeholders. . The European Commission recently launched its EU Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) initiative, to address this issue with a coherent approach, coordinating EU biodiversity interventions towards international targets.

In 2010 at the 10th summit of Conference of Parties to the Convention for Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, the European Union and all other parties agreed on a new global Strategic Plan for biodiversity. This plan identifies 20 targets – known as the Aichi targets – to be achieved by 2020. The Aichi targets aim to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, to reduce pressures on biodiversity, to safeguard biodiversity, to enhance the benefits provided by biodiversity and to improve capacity.

Building on the outcomes of Nagoya, the European Union in May 2011 announced its Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. This strategy aims at halting or reversing the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the European Union by 2020, restoring them and speeding up the European Union's transition towards a resource-efficient and green economy. It also includes a global dimension and steps up the European Union's contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

International convention on biological diversity

At international level, a new milestone was reached at the 11th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India, in 2012. The Parties of the CBD, which include the EU, agreed to an overall substantial increase of total biodiversity-related funding for the implementation of the Strategic Plan, from a variety of sources. The objectives of the Hyderabad commitment notably included the setting of a preliminary target of doubling total biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries by 2015 and at least maintaining this level by 2020. EuropeAid invested around €1.3 billion in biodiversity-related projects between 2007 and 2013.

The EU recognises that the link between ecosystems and employment, income and livelihoods in developing countries is even stronger than in developed countries. As emphasised in the EU policy framework, the Agenda for Change, development is not sustainable if it damages the environment, biodiversity or natural resources.

As part of the EU thematic programme Global Public Goods and Challenges (GPGC), EuropeAid has developed several flagship initiatives. These are large, multidisciplinary development programmes designed to tackle major global problems and maximise impacts through setting a clear objective and recognisable goals. Among the flagship initiatives, the EU Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) was recently launched and focuses on the strong linkages between ecosystems and livelihoods in view of contributing to poverty eradication. The EU B4Life aims at contributing to halt biodiversity loss and deliver on the European Union's commitments by fully integrating biodiversity and ecosystem conservation with socio-economic development and poverty eradication through an innovative and cross-cutting approach. The initiative will gather all European Commission's biodiversity specific activities to create more coherence and a clear strategic framework.

The EU B4Life operates in three priority areas:

  • Good governance for a sustainable management of natural resources
  • Ecosystem conservation for food security and sustainable rural development
  • Ecosystem-based solutions towards a green economy

In addition, it includes a specific window to address the wildlife crisis linked to increasing illegal trafficking which deserves special attention.



The European Union is one of the largest contributors of biodiversity finance to developing countries. EuropeAid alone has provided official aid funds for biodiversity-related interventions of around €1.3 billion from 2007 to 2013, of which around €1 billion from 2010 to 2013.

The European Commission funds biodiversity-related development cooperation activities through two types of instrument:

  • The implementation of the policy at national and regional level is supported by geographical instruments, such as the European Development Fund (in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the Development Cooperation Instrument (in Asia, Latin America and South Africa) and the European Neighbourhood & Partnership Instrument (in the neighbouring regions).
  • A specific thematic programme for Public Global Goods and Challenges (GPGC) addresses a number of issues that are not priorities under the geographical instruments as well as issues common to groups of countries not belonging to a single region.

The largest share of the European Commission investments in biodiversity is used to support protected areas. It includes projects to strengthen local capacities to maintain and benefit from protected areas, to promote income-generating activities in the protected areas and their buffer zones, and to support scientific monitoring.

The second most significant type of biodiversity-related activity is support to sustainable forest management. This involves efforts to elaborate forest sustainable management plans, to address forest governance issues, to combat illegal logging, and to design strategies to mitigate climate change through the prevention of deforestation.

European Commission's support to environment policies, such as the contribution to multilateral environmental agreements and the biodiversity mainstreaming projects. Biodiversity activities are also integrated in several other sectors such as agriculture, marine resources management and water management.

The European Commission supports biodiversity-related activities in developing countries all over the world and in particular where ecosystems are the richest and the most threatened. Least developed countries, in particular in Central Africa, are the European Commission's principal partners. This reflects the EU Agenda for Change focus that EU development aid spending should target countries that are in the greatest need of external support and where it can really make a difference.


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