What is biodiversity?

Why does it matter? And what are scientists at Kew doing to protect it?

The colourful Gaillardia 'Goblin' flowers by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Meaning of biodiversity

Biodiversity encompasses the plethora of species that make up the planet along with the ecosystems and processes they are involved in. Human survival depends on biodiversity. Every organism exists in a delicate balance with the environment. 

Dormice at Wakehurst by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

A delicate balance

When a species disappears it can affect the entire ecosystem. This could threaten the survival of other species. Hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) are rarely found in the wild because of habitat loss. Our rangers monitor them at our Loder Valley Nature Reserve.

Fly agaric fungus by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Interactions in nature

The biodiversity of an ecosystem leads to delicate interactions between plants, fungi and animals. This enables us to grow food, make medicines, harvest clean water and air. Scientific research is also uncovering secrets about how plants regulate the environment we live in. 

Extinct in the wild: Encephalartos woodii by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Threat of extinction

Kew scientists have posited that 2 in 5 plant species are now at risk of extinction.

The cycad Encephalartos woodii can be found in our Temperate House, but it’s actually extinct in the wild. Since it arrived at Kew in 1899 it has been all alone.


Inselberg in Ebo, Cameroon by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Cause of biodiversity loss

Deforestation, climate change, pollution, over-exploitation of land and proliferation of invasive species, pests and disease are the chief causes of biodiversity loss. Here at Kew we are working incredibly hard with international partners to protect biodiversity. 


Kew scientists regularly go on collection trips to bring back seeds and samples (2008) by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Global partnerships

In countries like Madagascar and Colombia we partner with local institutions to identify and document new species. Our scientists go on expeditions and we are building a knowledge bank to answer questions around food security. 


Kew scientists in Indonesia by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Identifying species

In Indonesia our scientists are working with partners to identify the most important areas for plant diversity. We are exploring remote places to help find and document species new to Western science.


Understanding biodiversity better by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Tracking and advising

We partner with experts in over 90 countries to uncover the value of biodiversity. We make recommendations to governments and decision-making bodies on protection and utilisation. Many programmes are already yielding encouraging results.

Our Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Banking of seeds

We also bank seeds as an insurance policy for the future. Our Millennium Seed Bank contains 2.4 billion seeds from more than 189 countries making it one of the largest conservation projects of its kind. Banking is one solution to counter the extinction of species.  


Understanding biodiversity better by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Watch our video about biodiversity

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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