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German development cooperation

Conserving biodiversity as a life-sustaining resource


A young giant tortoise is being measured.

The diversity of nature underpins our food supply; it provides the ingre­dients for many medicinal drugs, helps bind greenhouse gases and facilitates adaptation to the impacts of climate change. It yields ideas for technical de­vel­op­ment and inno­va­tion in archi­tec­ture, medicine and materials research. It also pro­vides space for leisure activities, inspires artistic endea­vours and has spiritual significance in many faith traditions. To raise aware­ness of the services that nature provides, Germany has commissioned and co-financed the study 'The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity' (TEEB).

According to the study, coral reefs cover only 1.2 per cent of the continental shelf world­wide but pro­vide a habitat for an estimated one to three million species, including a quarter of all marine fish species. In addition, reef eco­systems provide a live­li­hood for some 30 million people living on coasts and islands.

Swiss bee colonies ensure a yearly agricultural production worth about 143 million euros, which is about five times the value generated from the production of honey. The total economic value of insect pollination worldwide is put at 153 billion euros (2005 value), or almost ten per cent of the annual global agricultural yield.

In Canberra, Australia, 400,000 trees were planted to regulate the microclimate, improve air quality, reduce the amount of energy needed for air conditioning and store carbon. The resulting gain for the city – in the form of additional benefits or reduced costs – was estimated at between 13.5 and 45 million euros for the period 2008-2012.

These examples illustrate the variety of ways in which humans benefit from intact eco­systems. An important task for policy-makers, there­fore, is to promote synergies between sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and biodiversity con­ser­va­tion in every sector of the economy. Cross-sectoral approaches also play an im­por­tant part in German de­vel­op­ment policy. Integrating biological diversity and environmental services was there­fore an important discussion point at the 2012 De­vel­op­ment Conference in Rio.

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