The physical environment that supports plant and animal life
Human beings are only one of an estimated 8.7 million species on earth.1 We depend on this biodiversity—the variety of life—for our health and livelihood, for the security of food and energy supplies, and for protection from natural disasters. Biodiversity is vital to “ecosystem services,” natural processes that sustain life by, for example, cleaning water through the hydrologic cycle and decomposing waste by microorganisms. These services have been estimated to provide an economic value of up to $80 trillion in 2013, or the equivalent of the entire global economy.2
In the past four decades, biodiversity has declined by 30% worldwide and by 60% in the tropics.3The main cause of this loss is the destruction and disruption of habitat, the environments that support other species, mainly through over-development. Since the 1950’s, the amount of developed land has increased 300%, while population has increased only 75%, and the pace continues to accelerate.4
Habitat protects us from floods, improves water quality, enhances property values, provides us with food, reduces poverty, promotes health and well-being, and enhances community identity. Providing and preserving habitat is an essential means for design to promote not just environmental but also social and economic value.