The word biodiversity

The word “Biodiversity” was used for the first time as a contraction of “biological diversity” by the American biologist Walter G. Rosen during the “National Forum on BioDiversity”, a conference organized in 1986 in Washington. In 1988, the word “biodiversity” didn’t appear as a keyword in any scientific work, and “biological diversity” appeared in only one work. After five years, in 1993, “biodiversity” appeared 72 times, and “biological diversity” 19 times. Today, it would be difficult to know how many times the word “biodiversity” is used every day by scientists, politicians, journalists and other people.



The meaning of biodiversity

What is Biodiversity? E.O. Wilson, father of modern conservation biology, defined biodiversity as “the variety of organisms considered at all levels, from genetic variants belonging to the same species through arrays of species to arrays of genera, families, and still higher taxonomic levels; includes the variety of ecosystems, which comprise both the communities of organisms within particular habitats and the physical conditions under which they live.”


Biological diversity, as defined in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, means the variety and variability of organisms at the level of species, individuals, genes, interactions and ecological processes between them and at the level of ecosystems. The concept of biodiversity, intraspecific, interspecific and ecosystemic, is not a simple concept. In fact, we often tend to confuse biodiversity with diversity.


For example, if there are many species of trees in a forest there is good forest diversity. But if in that forest there are different species of trees, other plants, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, molluscs, fungus, musk etc., and these organisms interact between individuals of their own species and with the other species, the set of all these elements and interactions constitutes the biodiversity of that place. Even a desert or an Antarctic land has its biodiversity, even if there are no trees, reptiles or insects.


Biodiversity represents the wealth of life forms on Earth.


How many life forms are there on Earth? In reality we cannot give an answer because we don’t actually know how many species there are on Earth, but only how many are known to date.


About two million species have been cataloged on earth so far, but naturalists estimate that the total number of species is at least ten million, three-quarters of which are concentrated in tropical rainforests. We only know about a fifth of the animal and plant species on the planet. Zoologists and botanists describe thousands of species new to science every year.


But the destruction of tropical rainforests and the degradation of agrosystems leads to the extinction of tens of thousands of species per year!



The loss of biodiversity

The main causes of biodiversity loss are: climate change, pollution, degradation and fragmentation of habitats, the introduction of alien species, the consumption and impoverishment of the soil, the overexploitation of resources.


Although the disappearance of species is a natural phenomenon, the speed at which this phenomenon is occurring (that currently appears to be 100 to 1000 times faster than “natural” conditions), makes the loss of biodiversity the greatest environmental emergency of our time.



The value of biodiversity

Biodiversity has various direct, indirect and added values, such as: environmental value, social value, value of ecosystem services, economic value, final use value, productive use value, ethical and moral value, aesthetic value.


Biodiversity represents the most important resource of our planet’s natural systems, and all human activities depend on it, directly or indirectly.


In February 2022, the concept of biodiversity becomes part of the Fundamental Principles of the Italian Republic.  A unique constitutional amendment: it is the first time that one of the fundamental articles (articles 1 – 12) of the Constitution of the Italian Republic has been modified.


The renewed article 9 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic reads as follows:

 “The Republic promotes the development of culture and scientific and technical research. It protects the landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation. It protects the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, also in the interests of future generations. State law regulates the ways and forms of animal protection.”

The approved legislative proposal also modified the art. 41, with the addition of the concepts of “health” and “environment”:

“Private economic initiative is free. It cannot take place in conflict with social utility or in a way that causes damage to safety, freedom, human dignity, health, the environment. The law determines the appropriate programs and controls so that public and private economic activity can be directed and coordinated for social and environmental objectives”.



The protection of biodiversity

Protecting biodiversity is therefore a constitutional requirement, which every citizen and every institution must have as a fundamental principle of their daily actions.


In 2022 at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP 15), the commitment of scientists and politicians from around the world led to the definition of important objectives to protect 30% of terrestrial biodiversity and 30% of marine biodiversity by 2030.


The European Parliament also approved in 2023 the text of the Nature Restoration Law: a law that provides for the restoration of 20% of degraded ecosystems by 2030, an important step towards the goal of stopping the loss of biodiversity and preserving ecosystems.


World Biodiversity Association onlus (WBA) is an association made up of naturalists, botanists, zoologists and simple nature lovers involved in studying and conserving the biodiversity hot-spots all over the world.


WBA’s missions are to survey biodiversity through scientific research and to protect it with widespread educational action, particularly aimed at young people, to raise awareness of the discovery and active conservation of plant and animal species present on our planet and respect for natural balances of all ecosystems, including agricultural and urban environments.