Areas important for biodiversity contribute to human well-being

Published in Sustainability
 Areas important for biodiversity contribute to human well-being

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A new research by the Department of Biology and Biotechnologies "Charles Darwin" from La Sapienza University and carried out in collaboration with Stanford University, reveals the substantial contribution of biodiversity in regulating the climate, air quality, and water quantity. The study published in the journal Nature Sustainability opens up new perspectives for outlining effective conservation policies.

The growing human pressures on the environment and the intensive use of resources are causing a global loss of biodiversity and the consequent alteration of natural ecosystems. These processes also induce the decline of the so-called Nature's Contributions to People (NCP), i.e. all those contributions of nature – both positive and negative – to the quality of life of human beings.
In the last 50 years it has been observed that the loss of biodiversity and the trend of decline of different NCP, such as climate regulation and pollination (defined as regulating contributions) or cultural and psychological experiences (non-material NCP) are progressing in parallel. It has therefore become crucial to understand the spatial relationship between biodiversity and these NCP to ensure the Earth's life support systems.

Our study estimates the importance of high biodiversity regions in maintaining the supply of some NCP, considering four different climate change and socio-economic development scenarios. Our research focuses in particular on three fundamental and currently declining regulatory NCP, namely the regulation of air quality, climate and the quantity of fresh water.

"Our work - explains Marta Cimatti of the Biodiversity and Global Change research laboratory of University La Sapienza, first author of the study - has made it possible to measure the current and future value of NCP using a series of environmental indicators derived from cutting-edge climate models (CMIP6), and to evaluate whether the risk deriving from environmental change is greater or lesser in high biodiversity regions than in control regions".

The research results show that higher levels of NCP are present in high biodiversity regions for all indicators, both in the present and in different future scenarios, highlighting the spatial congruence between biodiversity and NCP. Furthermore, indicators of air quality and climate regulation show rapidly increasing levels in regions important for biodiversity, especially in high emission scenarios, while indicators of water quantity regulation are slightly declining.

"Having demonstrated that NCP increase most in areas important for biodiversity - continues Marta Cimatti - is essential for defining conservation policies, and allows us to identify possible synergies between the achievement of the objectives set in the context of various international conventions and various sustainable development goals. Indeed, the conservation of these areas would protect life on Earth through the conservation of biodiversity, but would also ensure the health and well-being of humans, the provision of clean water and sanitation, and climate mitigation."

 "It’s crucial that we protect Nature’s Contributions to People so that our planet can continue to provide these critical life-support functions for future generations"- adds Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer . She also stresses that "Biodiversity and ecosystem services are often seen as two separate considerations for conservation but here we show that future provision of key ecosystem functions occurs in areas of high biodiversity, suggesting that they may in fact support each other".

“The issues of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation have now become priorities, but the close link between these global objectives is not always clear to everyone – concludes Moreno Di Marco, head of the Biodiversity and Global Change laboratory and senior author of the study. This work demonstrates how biodiversity conservation makes a fundamental contribution to maintaining Nture's Contributions to People and consequently to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda."


The role of high-biodiversity regions in preserving Nature’s Contributions to People – Marta Cimatti, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Moreno Di Marco – Nature Sustainability (2023)

Marta Cimatti
Dipartimento di Biologia e biotecnologie Charles Darwin

Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer
Natural Capital Project, Stanford University, 327 Campus Drive, Stanford CA USA
Global Science, WWF. 131 Steuart St. San Francisco, CA, USA.

Moreno Di Marco
Dipartimento di Biologia e biotecnologie Charles Darwin

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