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Biodiversity

Biodiversity comprises the diversity of species, of ecosystems as well as genetic diversity.

Biological diversity (biodiversity) does not only comprise the diversity of wild fauna and flora and micro-organisms, but also the diversity of habitats and thus of the ecosystems, in which the species are living and the genetic diversity within the species. Thus it deals also with breeds or bred varieties.

Scientific estimations of the number of species living on earth vary between 10 and 100 million species. So far only 1.7 million species have been explored.  By means of human interference the diversity has been endangered and considerably reduced in the course of the past few years.

Why is diversity so important?

Biodiversity has, apart from its “value” as “natural heritage”, essential importance as basis of life for humans. Biodiversity plays, among other things, a central role in connection with ecosystem processes and the capacity of ecosystems to adapt themselves to changed framework conditions (keyword: climate change). The more species and genetic diversity within the species exist within a habitat, the more likely is it that plants and animals can adapt themselves to the climate change and to the environment. Nature protects against floods and against soil erosion. Moreover, humans depend on many products of biodiversity, be it foodstuffs, building materials or natural ingredients in plants, which can, for example, be used as medications.

Economic value – TEEB

Nature makes available its goods free of charge (”ecosystemic services”). But in fact they have a high economic value, which, so far, has only been taken into consideration in the national accounts. Within the framework of a big international study "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity“ TEBB) carried out under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the economic services of nature have been investigated in and estimated.

Examples:

  • The about 100,000 protected areas of the earth supply people with services equivalent to an amount of 4.4 to 5.2 billion US Dollar per year. Investments in protected areas pay off:  Investments in protected areas to the amount of 45 billion US Dollar bring nature-related services to the amount of 5 trillion US Dollar.
  • The value of coral reefs, whose ecosystem services range from coastal protection to fish breeding facilities, is estimated to amount to 170 billion US Dollar per year.
  • The value of the pollination services of bees amounts to several hundred million US Dollar per year.
  • 12,000 ha of mangroves planted and their maintenance are for example reflected in the budget by costs amounting to 1.1 million US Dollar in Vietnam. This saves maintenance costs for dikes to the amount of 7.3 million US Dollar.

Protecting biodiversity means at the same time nachhaltigen Umgang mit unseren Ressourcen (dealing with our resources in a sustainable way). 

Biodiversity in Austria

Austria has, due to its geographical position and its natural conditions, an enormously wide range of habitats and species and ranks among the most species-rich countries in Europe.

Approximately a total of 67,000 species, of which about 45,000 animal species (including about 93 mammal species and approx. 37,150 insect species); 3,000 ferns and flowering plants occur in Austria. According to estimations the European continent is home to about 200,000 animal and plant species.

According to the Red Lists 27% of the mammals, 27% of the birds, and 60% of the reptiles and amphibians are endangered in Austria. As far as ferns and blossoming plants are concerned about 33% are endangered.

The Red List of endangered biotopes indicates the hazards to habitats.  57% of the total of 93 forest biotopes are assessed as being endangered.  As to grassland biotopes 90% of the 61 types occurring in Austria are assigned to a hazard category.

The situation in Austria is comparable to that in all other countries in the EU. The European Union has lost more than half of its wetlands; more than 40% of its mammals, 25% of the birds, 45% of the butterflies, 30% of the amphibians; and more than half of the freshwater fish are endangered.

The diversity of species and habitats is under strong pressure in Austria. Ursachen der Biodiversitätsverluste  (Causes of the loss of biodiversity) are, among other things, land-use (sealing) as a consequence of an increasing population density, industrialisation and infrastructural facilities (e.g. roads), fragmentation and destruction of habitats, climate change but also light emissions. 

National Biodiversity Strategy

Being a contracting party to the Convention on Biological Diversity Austria is obliged to define a national strategy on the implementation of the Convention. In 1998 the first strategy was adopted by the National Biodiversity Commission and presented to the Council of Ministers for information.

The central principles are to ensure the integration of the protection of biodiversity in all relevant fields of politics as well as a coordinated procedure with regard to nature conservation and species protection. In 2005 the strategy was updated and further developed

The strategy contains objectives and measures on all relevant fields of politics of biodiversity protection.  Nature and species protection, agriculture and forestry, industry, transport tourism, development cooperation, etc.

biologischevielfalt.at

EU Biodiversity Strategy

The objective of the new EU Biodiversity Strategy submitted by the European Commission on 3 May 2011 is to improve the status of biodiversity in Europe within the next ten years and to protect the diversity.

Starting out from the target and the vision adopted at the EU Council meeting in March 2011 to halt the loss of biodiversity in the EU by 2020 and to protect, value, and restore the ecosystem services by 2050, six main targets for biodiversity protection were defined.

These six targets

  • are aimed at combating the main causes of biodiversity losses,
  • shall aim at the reduction of the hazards to biodiversity   
  • and advance the incorporation of the biodiversity objectives in important fields of politics.

The six main targets refer to

  • completely implementing the existing EU nature conservation legislation and the Natura 2000 network of protection areas, 
  • enhancing and restoring ecosystems and ecosystem services  in particular by the increased use of green infrastructures,
  • ensuring the sustainability of agricultural and forestry activities,
  • preserving and protecting the fish stocks in the EU,
  • combating invasive species
  • Stepping up the EU’s contribution to averting global biodiversity loss.

Aichi targets – global biodiversity targets

In October 2010 the contracting parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed on a vision on the status of global biodiversity in 2050 as well as on a mission for 2020 with a total of 20 concrete targets for the preservation of biodiversity. The states have committed themselves to defining their own targets and to taking the necessary measures at national, regional, and international levels in order to reach them.