Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth, and it is presently undergoing rapid and alarming decline. Thriving biodiversity, in functional ecosystems, is a prerequisite for life-sustaining systems and human health and wellbeing. Indeed, the destruction of nature is as dangerous to humanity as climate change. Biodiversity at genetic, species and ecosystem levels, helps us to address the challenges posed by diverse and changing environmental conditions and socio-economic circumstances.
Biodiversity in a nature inclusive society
How? Promoting habitat diversity in the local landscape or seascape increases biodiversity. It helps to create resilience to shocks and stresses, including those caused by climate change. It can also reduce the need for food and agricultural producers to rely on costly or environmentally harmful external inputs. By creating 'multifunctional landscapes' through using several species, breeds or varieties, integrating the use of crop, livestock, forest and aquatic biodiversity, production systems can be diversified and made more resistant to environmental change, improving livelihoods and supporting food security and nutrition. Not only this, but biodiversity has great intrinsic value. It provides inspiration for the arts, people function better at work and at home if they have access to biodiversity ('nature') on a regular basis and they even recover more quickly in hospital if they can see green grass and trees from their hospital beds.
Responding to the challenges
In the research programme Biodiversity in a Nature Inclusive Society (Nature Inclusive Transitions) WUR reflects and is responding to the key issues and challenges that confront us in relation to biodiversity today. More than 30 research projects are presently being funded by the programme, led by researchers based in diverse fields including ecology, agriculture, social sciences and economics. They fall within three thematic areas:
- Ecosystem functioning on different scale levels are explored; for example, the insect fauna of different forms of agriculture is sampled in order to see the value of different cultural practices for nature conservation.
- Innovative techniques and methodologies for biodiversity measurement and monitoring are tested, including the use of 'eDNA' to establish the presence of species that may be otherwise hard to detect or in habitats that are hard to sample; elsewhere monitoring by drones and remote sensing is linked to the use of 'machine deep learning' so that species can be identified and habitats classified using artificial intelligence.
- The triggers that lead stakeholders to engage in processes of transition, and to change their behaviours are investigated in relation to action perspectives on the mechanisms for a transition to a nature-inclusive society.
The programme provides a strong driver for multidisciplinary working, and the scientists and researchers from different fields and institutes are increasingly able to collaborate in order to provide the best possible combination of knowledge – which we believe is one way to find sustainable solutions to managing and restoring biodiversity as an indispensable cornerstone to maintaining human wellbeing, food security and delivering sustainable development.
In this research programme, Wageningen Research (WR) works together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and businesses to solve social issues. WR receives financial resources from LNV for implementation.