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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Biodiversity icon…for genetic diversity to provide system resilience to pest and climatic events

Homogenisation of agriculture has led to dependence on just a few crops and on a narrow gene pool, potentially resulting in the loss of genetic diversity. The current industrial and domestic reliance on a small number of crops makes entire systems more vulnerable to emergent pests and diseases or changes in environmental conditions. It is in businesses’ interest to retain a diverse source of genetic resources through the conservation of crop diversity and of wild relatives of domesticated species to maintain plant breeding opportunities. System resilience is key for supply chain security and sustainability and, when neglected, it can significantly disrupt business operations, increase costs through damage-control and generate risks. 

…for high quantity and quality crop harvests delivered by wild pollination

Some farming techniques, such as the use of pesticides on seeds and plants, may impact pollinators as well as pests and can have subsequent negative impacts on crop harvests. Wild pollination can increase the size and quality of crop harvests, which form the raw materials for many products. Maintaining a diversity of pollinators within the landscape provides insurance against year to year variability in the abundance of particular pollinating species. Access to pollinator abundance and diversity can reduce risks as well as costs of artificial inputs or manual pollination and is fundamental to business operations.

…for enhanced ecosystem services from species diversity and abundance

Biodiversity contributes to services such as the supply of clean water through filtering and regulating processes provided by forest and grassland cover and the removal of pollutants from water courses. Soil microorganism biodiversity enables adequate and productive biogeochemical cycling of nutrients through different forms of nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus and through the degradation of organic matter that controls the release of plant nutrients. Biodiversity provides natural predators and parasites for improved pest control, particularly important in an emerging environment of increasingly regulated pesticide use and expanding demand for organic crops. Ecosystem services, although often discounted, underline business operations; if they are tampered with it will cost a significant amount to find and access other means of providing similar services.