Here you will find the answers to frequently asked questions about biodiversity and our research initiative. Don’t see your question below? Then please get in touch with us.
Why is biodiversity important?
For many people, nature is worth preserving in itself for the purposes of recreation and pleasure. But there are also tangible reasons for stopping species loss. For example, much of the agricultural production of food depends on functioning ecosystems. Numerous species are involved in pollinating crops, decimating pests, and keeping soil arable and nutrient-rich. Intact wetlands and forests cleanse our groundwater of harmful substances and store carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. There is also a close relationship between human health and biodiversity: on the one hand, nature provides important medicinal substances. On the other hand, the destruction of natural habitats increases the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases and pandemics.
If there are still “major knowledge gaps” in the field of biodiversity, how do we know that biodiversity in Germany really is declining?
A large number of studies have already examined the trend of biodiversity in specific regions or for individual animal groups. Most of the results point to a drastic loss of biodiversity. Perhaps the best known is the “Krefeld Study” from 2017: In this study, researchers used insect traps to determine that the biomass of flying insects in German nature reserves has shrunk by three quarters over the past 27 years. Despite many individual findings, however, comprehensive, uniformly collected data are still lacking. They are needed to provide a complete picture of biodiversity in Germany across a wide range of species groups. Moreover, only some of the causes of species extinction are known so far. More detailed studies are therefore needed to develop effective countermeasures.
What are the causes of species extinctions?
The loss of biodiversity has many causes. The main reasons include the progressive decline of high-quality habitats for animals and plants, pollution from toxins, chemicals, and light, as well as human exploitation. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the most important causes are changes in land use (such as the clearing of forests and draining of peatlands for agricultural purposes), direct exploitation such as overfishing, climate change, pollution, and invasive species. Behind these are the so-called “indirect drivers”: demographics and socio-culture, economics and technology, institutions and governance, and conflict and epidemics.
Why are invasive species bad? Surely it is normal that nature changes?
Species only count as “invasive” if they are not originally native to an area and have undesirable impacts in that area. Invasive animal and plant species often compete with native species, but tend to supplant them because they are more resistant or adaptable. In the process, many invasive species benefit from the fact that they can reproduce uncontrollably because of the absence of their natural enemies in the new location. They can also introduce diseases or parasites that become dangerous to native species. In these ways, they disrupt the natural dynamics of entire ecosystems. BUND, among other organizations, lists examples on its website.
From FEdA’s point of view, does species protection take precedence over economic interests?
The special approach of the research initiative is to develop urgently needed measures for the conservation of biodiversity in close exchange with political, civil, and also economic actors. This is not only about the acceptance of new regulations, but also about our own economic interest: Intact ecosystems are essential for many economic activities. Protecting and increasing biodiversity therefore also makes sense from an economic perspective.
Why is agriculture so important for conservation efforts?
Around half of Germany’s total land area is used for agriculture. Over the course of intensification and industrialization of agriculture, monocultures have been increasingly cultivated, while more and more species-rich marginal structures such as hedges or green margins have been abandoned or eliminated over the course of land consolidation. In addition, the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides can impair the natural flora and fauna. In the meantime, so-called agri-environmental measures are therefore being promoted to protect biodiversity and to restore more “semi-natural” habitats (flower strips, skylark corridors, hedges, etc.).
What scientific findings has FEdA already produced?
You can find out about the latest results from FEdA’s scientific projects under Research Results or Press Releases/News. Up-to-date information is also available on Twitter and Facebook as well as in our biannual newsletter.
What can I do during my daily routine to help the conservation of biodiversity?
A good starting point for slowing down the conversion of natural habitats to agricultural land worldwide is to stop or reduce the consumption of meat and other animal products, especially those from intensive agriculture (so-called “factory farming”). Organic products benefit biodiversity: organic farming uses more land than intensive farming, but the methods used are generally less harmful to the environment. When buying fish, make sure it was caught using sustainable fishing practices or was produced using sustainable fish farming. If you would like more detailed information, you can use the Seafood Guide from WWF. Of course, you should always avoid eating rare, exotic animals.
Fighting against climate change also helps biodiversity, since natural habitats are preserved for longer. Some points are: reduce plastic and food waste, conserve electricity, buy regionally and seasonally, eat less meat, use bicycles and public transport instead of cars, and avoid air travel if possible. At the level of indirect drivers, it helps, for example, to get involved politically – including at the local or municipal level – and to support sustainably operating businesses and banks.
In our guidebook section (currently in German only), you will find concrete instructions and tips on how to promote the conservation of biodiversity in everyday life. If citizen science projects are launched in the future as part of the research initiative, in which citizen scientists can actively participate in research on the topic of biodiversity, we will announce this on the FEdA homepage.
I am a scientist doing research in the field of biodiversity. How can I get involved?
The research initiative regularly organizes conferences where the exchange also with research projects outside the initiative plays an important role. If you would like to establish your own project within the framework of the research initiative, you can find out about current funding opportunities on our homepage.