Biodiversity

Life on Earth is not possible without biodiversity. The interplay of thousands of species of plants, animals and ecosystems forms the foundation of a healthy living environment, sustainable food production and the mitigation of climate change. Wageningen University & Research (WUR) is working hard for a society in which biodiversity flourishes. We do so in research, education and cooperation with companies, government and civil society organisations.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the variety of life in a particular area - from a drop of water to an entire forest. Biodiversity includes all types of plants, animals and micro-organisms, but also the enormous genetic variation within all these species and between different ecosystems, from marshes to deserts.

Why is biodiversity important?

Biological diversity is directly linked to major challenges of our time such as food security, climate change and health. Almost everything we eat and most of our building materials and medicines come from biological resources. Clean water and breathable air are also 'ecosystem services' provided by nature. The complex interplay between different types of plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and ecosystems keeps everything functioning properly. In a way, biodiversity is a safety net that upholds the planet's resilience. The more elements in this system go missing, the faster our food production, climate resilience and disease control will be compromised.

For instance, you need a diverse field with pollinating insects, compatible crops and healthy soil to grow vegetables or grains sustainably. Where there is more biodiversity, diseases are less likely to cross over between animals and humans. And biodiversity in the forest and ocean helps sequester CO2, so the Earth warms up at a slower rate.

Bending the curve of biodiversity loss

Biodiversity is under enormous pressure worldwide. This pressure is due to several factors, such as fragmentation and decline of habitats of plant and animal species, climate change, desertification, over-fertilisation, industrialisation, urbanisation and use of pesticides. At the current rate of biodiversity loss and without far-reaching action, we are heading towards an unlivable earth. To turn the tide, a change of thinking and doing in the way we produce, consume and interact with nature is necessary.

Black: The historical biodiversity loss curve before 2010  Green: with effort through more sustainable production and consumption Orange: without more sustainable production and consumption  Grey: if we continue on our current path.

Black: The historical biodiversity loss curve before 2010
Green: with effort through more sustainable production and consumption
Orange: without more sustainable production and consumption
Grey: if we continue on our current path

This infographic was published in Nature magazine: Bending the curve of terrestrial biodiversity needs an integrated strategy

Working on biodiversity: the Wageningen approach

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has been working towards this goal for many years through the “Wageningen approach”. From numerous disciplines, our ecologists, soil scientists, plant and animal scientists, technologists, economists, behavioural scientists, transition scientists and other experts study biodiversity issues that affect land, freshwater systems and the seas. Moreover, they are in close contact with involved parties in the chain, all over the world.

The global biodiversity, food and climate problems cannot be seen separately and can only be solved with an integrated scientific (evidence-based) approach. This will only be truly successful if all parties in these fields join forces. Not only scientists, but also companies, governments and civil society organisations. As a global connector, WUR wants to take the lead in developing new innovations and integral solutions that will restore biodiversity in a sustainable and equitable way.

Focus areas

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Joint forces in the Wageningen Biodiversity Initiative

The Wageningen Biodiversity Initiative (WBI), established in 2021, is a unifying initiative within Wageningen University & Research. With researchers from many different disciplines, we work together to develop new knowledge, strengthen our contacts and improve education for biodiversity. In addition, we encourage exchange with and between various stakeholders in society through dialogues.

Co-creation with our stakeholders is central to our approach. Would you like to work with us towards a nature-inclusive world, or do you have an idea that you would like to discuss? Please contact us at biodiversity@wur.nl.

Collaborating on biodiversity research

With governments, businesses and civil society, we collaborate to build nature-inclusive and biodiverse societies. Our applied research is of high quality and helps our partners to find concrete solutions for the challenges of our time. Would you like to explore opportunities for cooperation, or use the expertise of WUR in your plan or project? Please contact us at biodiversity@wur.nl.

For more information on our research institutes, facilities and experts, please visit Value Creation & Cooperation.

Research for the Dutch government

In the strategic research programme Nature Inclusive, which is aligned with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), the top sectors, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European agenda, we investigate the functioning of ecosystems at different scales. We are looking for innovative techniques for measuring and monitoring biodiversity, for example eDNA. And we look at the motives of stakeholders; what makes parties want to be involved in a transition to a nature-inclusive society?

Wageningen University & Research supports the government in a number of Statutory Research Tasks (WOTs). We monitor Dutch nature and nature policy through the WOT Nature & Environment. In addition, we are leading in monitoring and promoting the genetic diversity of plants, animals and trees through the Centre for Genetic Resources (CGN). Finally, WUR is also responsible for monitoring fish and shellfish populations in the seas and inland waters via the Centre for Fisheries Research (CVO).

International research

WUR research on biodiversity takes place all over the world. From protecting coral reefs and rainforests to discussing biodiversity goals on a European level - WUR scientists are everywhere. This makes us an ideal partner for transnational programmes, where we can use our knowledge and networks to connect and scale up initiatives on a broad scale.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a guiding principle for WUR. In the area of biodiversity, we not only look at the SDGs that are directly related to nature (14. Life below Water and 15. Life on Land), but we work towards making all SDGs nature-inclusive. After all, more biodiversity is not only a goal in itself, but also the way to a healthier, climate-proof and food secure future.

WUR is partner in

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Delta Plan Biodiversity Restoration: WUR is a partner in the Delta Plan and has a permanent representative in each of the seven thematic groups.

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Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER): Wageningen Environmental Research is a key member of this partnership of eight of the largest European environmental centres.

Education and courses on biodiversity

Wageningen University & Research offers education and courses on biodiversity for students and professionals. Take a look - is there something for you?

Vacancies in biodiversity

Biodiversity and sustainability on campus

Wageningen Campus is one of the most sustainable knowledge campuses in the world, for example through the use of thermal energy storage and the application of high sustainability criteria in the construction, maintenance and renovation of buildings.

On campus you will find a lot of exceptional nature. The nature gardens contain rare plants and you will come across all kinds of insects, birds, mushrooms and bats. Every year during the Wageningen Biodiversity Challenge, we count as many species as possible - in 2022, there were over 800.

Other organisations and businesses located on Wageningen Campus also pay a great deal of attention to sustainability. The campus is 80% climate-neutral.

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Support biodiversity research through the University Fund Wageningen

The University Fund Wageningen encourages the development of academic talent, rewards excellent education and research, and facilitates groundbreaking research within Wageningen University & Research. At Wageningen University & Research (WUR), we work hard to improve biodiversity in many and varied projects. Would you like to help?

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