Table of Contents

1. Overview

Biodiversity describes the variety of life in an area, including:

  • the number of different species
  • the genetic wealth within each species
  • the interrelationships between them
  • the natural areas where they occur.

 These benefits of biodiversity are often referred to as ecosystem goods and services. These services are categorised:

  • Provision – biodiversity provides all living organisms with water, food, fuel, medicine and fibres.
  • Regulation – biodiversity and its life-support systems regulate climate, water and the spread of disease.
  • Cultural – people need connection to nature. There are numerous spiritual, aesthetic, recreational and learning benefits.
  • Supporting life systems – production, soil formation and nutrient cycles.

And biodiversity is also directly related to the quality of life you may expect.

The loss of biodiversity has lead to economic gains in some cases, but increasingly people are seeing that there are material costs that were not considered. The Green Jobs report, South Africa’s Green Fund and exploration of financing schemes for the payment of ecosystem services (PES) are important developments.

Incentives provided for the conserving of biodiversity set an economic value on this preservation. Areas served by this will include soil erosion prevention, landscape beauty, water flows, carbon sequestration and storage, and biodiversity protection generally. There is great job creation potential here (as evidenced in initiatives like government’s Working for Water programme), and the aligning of conservation efforts to national development goals should be encouraged.

Source: an excerpt from the opening page at (now defunct)
Renosterveld, part of the fynbos biome. Green Trust/WWF SA media trip. Photo used courtesy of Helen Gordon, WWF SA



Biodiversity is the basis of agriculture. Maintaining biodiversity is essential for the production of food, agricultural goods, and all the benefits that come with these – food security, nutrition and livelihoods. The “Natural resources” section of this publication is a recognition that while agriculture contributes to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, the opposite is also possible: agriculture can be responsible for biodiversity loss.

The reader should note that there is information elsewhere in the book that could well have been in this section e.g. the information on best fertiliser practice (see “Fertiliser” chapter). Also, in order to mainstream them, several chapters like biocontrol, renewable energy and rainwater harvesting have been moved to the “Inputs” section.