Why biodiversity science? Why DIVERSITAS?

Unprecedented loss and changes in biological diversity are taking place at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, in both terrestrial and marine groups of organisms. In fact, studies of the geological records of known organism groups reveal that the current rate of extinction is several hundred times greater than expected (Dirzo and Raven 2003). This current ‘extinction crisis’, sometimes referred to as The Sixth Extinction, is the direct result of human activities.

Photo: Micro-organisms   Photo: Rice paddy   Photo: Africa

© P. Lopez-Garcia

© A. Larigauderie

© A.-H. Prieur-Richard

Biodiversity loss and change is a matter of concern, not only because of the aesthetic, ethical or cultural values attached to biodiversity, but also because it could have numerous far-reaching – and often unanticipated – consequences for our life-support system. One of the most worrisome possibilities is a reduction in the capacity of natural and managed ecosystems to deliver ecological services, such as production of food and fibre, carbon storage, nutrient cycling and resistance to climate and other environmental changes. Assessing the causes and consequences of biodiversity changes, and establishing the bases for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, are major scientific challenges of our time.

The past decade has seen the birth of the Convention on Biological Diversity and of many conservation programmes aimed at protecting biodiversity. In addition, individual countries are responding to the urgent need for action by establishing national research programmes dedicated to developing biodiversity science. The complex scientific questions posed by the global loss and change of biodiversity are beyond the scope of individual countries and disciplines, and require an additional level of international scientific cooperation.

Why is DIVERSITAS needed ?

DIVERSITAS meets this need by proposing an integrated research framework to the international scientific community. The Programme is a partnership of inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations formed to promote, facilitate and catalyse scientific research on biodiversity – its origin, composition, ecosystem function, maintenance and conservation.

The goal of DIVERSITAS is to provide accurate scientific information and predictive models of the status of biodiversity, to find ways to support a more sustainable use of the Earth’s biotic resources, and to build a world-wide capacity for biodiversity science. In so doing, DIVERSITAS brings added value to national and regional biodiversity research projects.

In establishing international, multidisciplinary networks of scientists, DIVERSITAS endeavours to address the scientific priorities presented in its Science Plan. In addition to the four Core Projects (bioGENESIS, bioDISCOVERY, ecoSERVICES and bioSUSTAINABILITY), DIVERSITAS creates Cross-cutting Networks to investigate specific topics of global importance. Recognizing that biodiversity is one element of the processes that support the complex Earth system, DIVERSITAS is also a founding member of the Earth System Science Partnership.

With its interdisciplinary focus, ranging from the natural to the human dimensions of biodiversity, DIVERSITAS provides key insights into a broad range of important socio-economic policy questions and fosters innovations and partnerships between research institutions and universities of developed and developing countries.

The expertise supplied by DIVERSITAS is relevant to the aims of Agenda 21 and of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


Last updated: 14 November 2006

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