Biodiversity loss and climate change, two mutually reinforcing crises

September 15, 2022

Changes in agriculture and our food system are crucial in combatting climate change and biodiversity loss. That is the topic of the third Mansholt lecture, to be delivered by Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation professor Liesje Mommer. Each year, Wageningen University & Research presents its views on European issues within the domain of food, agriculture and sustainability during the Mansholt lecture.

Ecosystems with low biodiversity are less resilient and ill-equipped to mitigate the effects of climate change. At the same time, climate change is the key cause of biodiversity loss. This makes biodiversity loss and climate change two mutually reinforcing crises. When the effect of climate change worsens, biodiversity loss increases; when biodiversity loss occurs, ecosystems are less able to adequately regulate the impact of climate change.

These interlinked crises result mainly from the way in which humans produce food: the food system. At the same time, our food system will be one of the key victims of the exacerbated effects of climate change, such as floods, drought, heat, plagues and diseases. The food system thus has considerable influence on changes in life on our planet. Hence, in her lecture this year, Liesje Mommer calls for the reintroduction of biodiversity in our food system for a more sustainable, healthier and more resilient planet.

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Translation figure: Green text: Increased action for conservation through sustainable production and sustainable consumption. Orange text: Increased action for nature conservation. Grey text: No action taken.

Liesje Mommer stands up for biodiversity

Liesje Mommer is a Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation professor at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). She developed a molecular method to identify plant roots and study their interaction. More diverse plant communities repeatedly proved to store water and carbon better and to be more resilient against disease. In other words: more diverse plant communities are better equipped to regulate the effects of climate change. This knowledge, and the news that one million species across the globe are threatened with extinction, motivated Mommer to speak up: scientists must collaborate even more to combat biodiversity loss.

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The Mansholt lecture focuses on how the food system can be shaped to contribute to a sustainable and healthy planet. WUR presents its views and recommendations for the roles of agriculture and the food system in mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss. What changes are needed, and how can we ensure that the transition to new systems is sustainable, fair and equitable?