Biodiversity and Food Systems

The Link Between Biodiversity and Food Systems


Food systems and biodiversity are two concepts that are very interrelated and are in fact dependent on each other. Biodiversity is defined as variation of living organisms within a specified ecosystem and includes genetic variation, species variation and ecosystem variation. Food chains refer to the entire process and structures that are used in providing foods to the people in a given society in terms of production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal. In this article we aim to provide an understanding of how biodiversity can foster food security and sustainability, and how food systems have an influence over the existence of biodiversity.

The role of biodiversity in the food systems.

When food systems depend on biologically diverse systems, they are more productive, resilient and sustainable. These aspects of species and genotypic diversities provide the surety of enhanced agricultural productivity and food security.

  1. Population Variation and Plant Endurance

Individual genetic variation within crop species is the basis for breeding for resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and other desirable traits. The crop genetic resources are important for the development of improved crop varieties capable of sustaining the environment.

For example, the International Rice Genebank stores more than 127, 000 rice samples including wild relatives that are relevant in breeding for drought and disease resistance.

  1. Ecosystem Services

Agriculture is an important aspect of human life that is closely related to the ecosystem services of biodiversity. Some of the beneficial roles they play include:

Pollination: the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma.

Control of pests: the process of managing and preventing pests, such as insects, rodents, and other animals, from causing damage to crops, buildings, and other areas.

Nutrient cycling: a system where energy and matter are transferred between living organisms and nonliving parts of the environment.

Soil formation: the process of soil genesis as regulated by the effects of place, environment, and history.

Some of the pollinators that are necessary for the production of many crops include bees, butterflies, and other insects. According to the estimates, every third mouthful of food produced globally depends on pollinators, making them a critical component of food production.

  1. Nutritional Diversity

Biodiversity plays its part in diet and nutrition. Different types of plants and animals consumed in diets can give a larger amount of nutrients which may help in enhancing health standards.

The local people are known to consume a variety of plants and animals that are found in their locality and these are believed to contain vitamins and minerals that are not found in crops grown in monoculture farming.

Impacts of Food Systems on Biodiversity

Biodiversity sustains food systems but the current practices in production of foods have adverse effects on biodiversity. One of the most pressing concerns contributing to the decline of species richness is the growth of agriculture and farming.

  1. Habitat Destruction and Fragmentation

One of the major factors that threatens the population of species is the conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural lands. Farmlands, ranches and plantations are established on forests, wetlands, and grasslands thus leading to habitat elimination and compartmentalization.

For instance, the increase of palm oil farming has contributed to the loss of large tracts of the tropical rainforest in SouthEast Asia endangering the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.

  1. Monoculture and Genetic Erosion

Monopolized agriculture, where farmers cultivate a single plant species across vast tracts of land, increases the susceptibility of crops to pests and diseases due to lack of genetic variation. It may result in genetic erosion whereby the variation between crop species reduces.

One example of how LCV affects plant species is the Irish Potato Famine that occurred in the 19th century. The increased reliance on a single type of potato brought disaster when the potato type developed a blight that wiped out the crop.

  1. Agrochemical Use

Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used in recent farming can have adverse effects on other living organisms, the soil, and water resources. They contribute to the decrease of the above- and below-ground biotic diversity.

Pesticides have been associated with loss of pollinators since they cause their deaths. Neonicotinoids which are a group of insecticides have been proven to be toxic to bees and other pollinators despite their importance to many crops.

Sustainable Agricultural Practices

To reduce the consequences of the existing food systems on biodiversity, proper approaches to agriculture must be adopted. These practices are intended to bring about improvements in the biological diversity and at the same time, the yields per unit area of agricultural land.

  1. Agroecology

Agroecology is a management practice that implements ecological concepts in agricultural organization and management with the aim of improving the health of ecosystems. These measures are crop rotation, mixed cropping, tree growing around farms, and the application of organic matter.

For example, planting different crops in the same area, known as intercropping, has numerous benefits such as pest control, better soil nutrient supply, and better ability to withstand environmental shocks. 

  1. Conservation Agriculture

Conservation agriculture was defined as minimum tillage, keeping the soil cover, and crop rotation. These practices are effective in the management and improvement of soil health as well as the promotion of plant and animal diversification in agricultural systems.

Conservation tillage is an important element of CA that includes practices such as no tillage that minimize soil erosion, enhance water retention, and diversify soil microorganisms.

  1. Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management is a method of controlling pests that uses bio control, cultural control, mechanical control as well as chemical control. It helps in minimizing the dependence on chemical pesticides and takes care of the survival of useful species.

Natural enemies, pheromone traps and resistant crop varieties are some of the methods that have been developed to check the pest population without threatening the biodiversity.


The link between biodiversity and food systems is vital for ensuring the resilience, productivity, and sustainability of agriculture. Biodiversity provides essential ecosystem services, genetic resources, and nutritional diversity, all of which support robust food systems. Conversely, modern agricultural practices can negatively impact biodiversity through habitat destruction, monoculture farming, and agrochemical use. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as agroecology, conservation agriculture, and integrated pest management, offer pathways to enhance biodiversity while maintaining food production. By recognizing and strengthening the connections between biodiversity and food systems, we can work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.

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