Agricultural Biodiversity

What is Agricultural Biodiversity?

Agricultural biodiversity is a broad term that includes all components of biological diversity of relevance to food and agriculture, and all components of biological diversity that constitute the agricultural ecosystems, also named agro-ecosystems: the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, which are necessary to sustain key functions of the agro-ecosystem, its structure and processes (COP decision V/5, appendix).

Agricultural biodiversity is the outcome of the interactions among genetic resources, the environment and the management systems and practices used by farmers. This is the result of both natural selection and human inventive developed over millennia.

The following dimensions of agricultural biodiversity can be identified:

1) Genetic resources for food and agriculture:
  • Plant genetic resources, including crops, wild plants harvested and managed for food, trees on farms, pasture and rangeland species,
  • Animal genetic resources, including domesticated animals, wild animals hunted for food, wild and farmed fish and other aquatic organisms,
  • Microbial and fungal genetic resources.

These constitute the main units of production in agriculture, and include cultivated and domesticated species, managed wild plants and animals, as well as wild relatives of cultivated and domesticated species.

2) Components of biodiversity that support ecosystem services upon which agriculture is based. These include a diverse range of organisms that contribute, at various scales to, inter alia, nutrient cycling, pest and disease regulation, pollination, pollution and sediment regulation, maintenance of the hydrological cycle, erosion control, and climate regulation and carbon sequestration.

3) Abiotic factors, such as local climatic and chemical factors and the physical structure and functioning of ecosystems, which have a determining effect on agricultural biodiversity.

4) Socio-economic and cultural dimensions. Agricultural biodiversity is largely shaped and maintained by human activities and management practices, and a large number of people depend on agricultural biodiversity for sustainable livelihoods. These dimensions include traditional and local knowledge of agricultural biodiversity, cultural factors and participatory processes, as well as tourism associated with agricultural landscapes.