The meaning of Biodiversity

When you pour water into a glass do you think about where it came from? How was it cleaned? What has made this water available to us? These are only some of the questions that you should think about the everyday use of water. For the answer to this question may also be biodiversity.

As we have already mentioned, biodiversity manifests itself on several levels, among others on the ecosystem level. Biodiversity has a significant role in ecosystem functions and the services that the ecosystems provide. Ecosystem services are numerous and difficult to evaluate. Examples are wetlands that are a treasury of biodiversity with their diversity. It is estimated that the value of numerous services they provide (preventing drought and erosion, clean air and water, supplying groundwater...) reaches € 16,000 / ha per year. Services of a larger river can reach an estimated value of € 16-60 million in one year. Each year the loss of biodiversity causes a decrease of the global GDP by 3 %.


And what are the services that achieve such high values? In general the ecosystem services can be divided into four different groups:

1. Provisioning services are the goods that the ecosystems offer to us. In the case of inland waters, they are water and aquatic organisms. We use water for drinking, cooking, domestic use, agriculture, industry, sailing and for generating power. Fish, crustaceans, molluscs and numerous plant species are only a part of our diet and a resource of medicine.

2. Regulating services are in charge of regulating water quality (natural filtration and water cleaning), prevention of floods and erosion, climate regulation.

3. Cultural services represent immaterial benefits of ecosystems, which affect our spiritual well-being. This predominately includes recreation (kayaking, rafting, swimming, sport fishing ...), tourism (visiting lakes, rivers, wetlands), education (ex. science days in nature) and "personal satisfaction" that we feel when are watching and visiting aquatic environments.

4. Supporting services are the basis for all the other services, as they include the water and nutrients cycling (ex. maintenance of soil fertility in floodplains), primary production, the relationships between predators and prey, ecosystem resilience (ex. the ability to recover to its original state after an extreme event). Especially in the latter service biodiversity has a key role since larger number of organisms and their mutual relationships increase the flexibility and stability of ecosystems. Within the same species there are already differences between individuals, which means greater adaptability of the ecosystem to changes and a faster recovery in case of damage or destruction. Take for example the germination of seeds. If all the seeds germinated at the same time and frost appeared, all shoots would be ruined. Thus with different times of germination the species enable their own survival in a changing environment. Nature sometimes promotes one, sometimes the other characteristic and in doing so develops diversity.


With the increased diversity of inland aquatic ecosystems, the diversity of services they offer to us also increases. This way the wetlands especially have a role in retaining water in the landscape, which results in preventing erosion and flooding, supplying groundwater and water cleaning. Pumping CO2 and releasing O2, removing of heavy metals from the water, sediment retention are just some of wetland's services and are provided mostly by plant species, so with their disposal these services are reduced or even lost.

In order to really be aware of the importance of biodiversity, the European Commission has named it as "Our life insurance, our natural capital" in the European Union Strategy for Biodiversity until the year 2020. So we should reconsider how we treat biodiversity.



Slovenian Environment Agency 2001. Review the status of biodiversity and landscape diversity in Slovenia. Ljubljana, Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning of Slovenia, Environmental Agency: 224 p. In Slovene.

Chapter 7. Freshwater Ecosystem Services. V: Chopra K., Leemans R., Kumar P., Simons H. (ur.) 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Policy Responses: findings of the Responses Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Volume 3. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, ZDA: 213-255. In English.

Gerbrandy G-J. (Rapporteur) 2011. DRaft report on our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (2011/2307(INI)). European parliament, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Saftey: 8 p. Available on the Internet, 06/02/2012. In English.

Wetlands connect us. Leaflet. Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Ljubljana, 2009. Available on the Internet, 01/02/2012. In Slovene.

Thompson, I., Mackey, B., McNulty, S., Mosseler, A. 2009. Forest Resilience, Biodiversity, and Climate Change. A synthesis of the biodiversity/resilience/stability relationship in forest ecosystems. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal. Technical Series no. 43: 67 pages., 13/03/2012. In English.

The Institut of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation 2010. People with nature, nature for people. Biodiversity is our life. Ljubljana: 40 p. Available on the Internet, 01/02/2012.