The current state of biodiversity has significantly deteriorated in recent decades, in Switzerland and around the world. The main factors responsible for the global decline in biodiversity are habitat loss for animals and plants, the excessive use of natural resources, climate change, environmental pollution, and invasive alien (non-native) species. The poor state of biodiversity is visible at all of its three levels: ecosystems, species and genes.
A variety of different ecosystems and habitats exist worldwide in the most diverse regions of our planet. They sustain the existence of the living organisms that inhabit them, which have adapted to their specific environmental habitat – on land such as the taiga of Eastern Siberia, in freshwater regions such as Lake Baikal, and in coastal and marine regions such as the Great Barrier Reef.
Ecosystems are also indispensable to humans through the natural resources that they provide and thus form the basis for human enterprise and well-being. Estimates suggest that these so-called 'ecosystem services' provide benefits of USD 125–140 trillion per year, which is more than one-and-a-half times the global gross domestic product (OECD, Biodiversity: Finance and the Economic and Business Case for Action, 2019).
They are, however, under threat. The global report of the World Biodiversity Council IPBES states that there has been a rapid decline in the majority of ecoservices since 1970.
Around 1.74 million species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms are currently known to exist, although estimates suggest that the actual number could be much higher.
Studies of fossils show that a species exists for between 1 and 10 million years after its origination before it naturally dies out. The natural annual rate of species extinction is 0.1 species per million. According to the World Biodiversity Council IPBES Global Assessment Report, the current extinction rate is already 10 to 100 times higher than the average of the past 10 million years, and it is accelerating.
Extinction is simply the conclusion of a long decline in the population of a species. The Living Planet Index, which summarises trends in vertebrate populations, shows that there has been a rapid decline in species since 1970, with a decline of 40% in terrestrial species, 84% in freshwater species, and 35% in marine species.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is also evidence of the poor state of biodiversity. Of the 115,000 species assessed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), 27% are classified as endangered worldwide (i.e. the IUCN Red List categories 'critically endangered', 'endangered' and 'vulnerable').
Information on genetic diversity is based almost exclusively on our knowledge of cultivars and animal breeding. In the case of livestock, 16% of 8,200 breeds are considered endangered (Global Biodiversity Outlook 4). For cultivated plants, it is feared that as much as 75% of genetic diversity has been lost since the beginning of the 20th century.
Biodiversity conservation is therefore a challenge that requires local, regional and global action. The most far-reaching instrument to help achieve this is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (see International agreements).
Last modification 07.03.2023