Human Dimensions of Biodiversity



This axis focuses on the contribution of biodiversity to human livelihoods and health. Projects supported explore how the meaning values and of biodiversity link up with the integrated ecosystem approach to management and policy by shedding light on the role of biodiversity as a nature-based contributor to climate change mitigation. The axis convenes a range of actors from First Nations, Inuit and Métis organisations, NGOs (i.e., ICCA Consortium), governmental agencies and international organisations (i.e. Convention on Biological Diversity) to explore the meaning and values of biological and cultural diversity, to develop new insights into drivers of loss of bio-cultural diversity, as well as solutions, best practices and how systems of resource management and governance can be more inclusive of nature-culture linkages.

Research conducted by Axis 4 researchers are aligned with two of the five goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s strategic plan which emphasises the need to (D) enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services and (E) enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building. Research conducted is also connected to the Joint CBD-UNESCO Program of Action on Biocultural Diversity. Furthermore, research projects under Axis 4 correspond to the Future Earth program key focal challenges 5 to 8: v) promote a sustainable rural future to feed a growing and more affluent population, vi) improve human health by elucidating, and finding responses to, the complex interactions amongst environmental change, pollution, pathogens, etc, vii) encourage sustainable, equitable production patterns through an understanding of the social and environmental impacts of consumption of resources, etc., viii) increase social resilience to future threats by building adaptative governance systems, etc.

Axis 4 researchers are collaborating with several institutions including the Montreal-based United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO, the Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives (CICADA), First Nation, Inuit and Métis organisations, the OURANOS consortium, the Centre de la biodiversité de l’Université de Montréal, the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV) and the Montreal Botanical Garden (i.e., First Nations Garden), the Loyola Centre for Sustainability Research (LCSR) at Concordia University, multiple provincial ministries (MAPAQ, MDDELCC), leading national and international NGOs (i.e., SNAP, ICCA Consortium), and other national and international organisations as well as programs like Future Earth.


Research GoalS

  • To further our understanding of social-ecological systems
  • To improve our knowledge and to promote the indispensable exchange and dialogue on the interlinkages between biological and cultural diversity, in addressing sustainable development challenges, including climate change, food and agriculture, water supply, poverty alleviation, ecosystem services degradation, urban sprawl, and knowledge systems.
  • To further our understanding of decision-making mechanisms for the management of biodiversity in local and indigenous communities both locally and internationally, in the North and South.
  • To generate scientifically sound, socially relevant and politically feasible strategies for biodiversity management and appropriate governance from local to global scales.


Axis 4 Themes:

Theme 4.1. Biodiversity, Knowledge and Culture

Theme 4.1 focuses on biocultural diversity and its expression in local and indigenous knowledge systems. Through engagements with stakeholders and co-production of knowledge this will increase our understanding of human-biodiversity related issues. These links between social and ecological systems are crucial, particularly in a number of local and indigenous communities which depend on natural resources for their existence (fisheries, hunting and trapping, etc). The human impact on biodiversity is largely determined by the cultural value assigned to biodiversity ; likewise, biodiversity, its status, trends and the services it provides all influence the cultural expression of peoples. These links between social and ecological systems are of particular relevance for conservation initiatives that take a collaborative multi-stakeholder approach to decision-making. This theme is built upon the understanding of human values, knowledge, uses and associated interactions with biodiversity. This had led to a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement in biodiversity management, and demonstrated how the interactions between social and ecological systems can be accounted for in conservation planning.

Theme 4.2. Biodiversity, Food Security and Food Sovereignty

Theme 4.2 focuses on food security and food sovereignty, sustainable livelihoods, agriculture and food production in modern agro-ecosystems as well as in local and traditional food systems, . traditional knowledge associated with food security, including traditional production challenges, as well as governance of food security, and human rights linked to food security. Multi-scalar food security and food sovereignty will be examined in the context of increasing international relations and trade.

Theme 4.3. Biodiversity contribution to Health and well-being

Theme 4.3 focuses on the link between biodiversity and health as a major contributor to individual and community well-being, which is also highly threatened according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Well-being can, in many cases, be associated with access to healthy, nutritious foods and lifestyle choices. In certain contexts, health, psychological well-being and spirituality intersect with biodiversity and the management of habitats and species. Key threats to health and well-being include the emergence of diseases and pathogens following local as well as global changes.

Theme 4.4. Biodiversity resources, knowledge access and management in the context of an international regime on access and benefits sharing

In light of the serious threats facing global biodiversity and of the growing commercial interest in genetic resources, researchers within this theme focus on key questions regarding genetic diversity and the access, management and benefits sharing associated with their genetic information. Researchers also investigate how environmental rules influence actors, and how environmental issues affect public international law. Other researchers look into mainstreaming biodiversity into education and learning. This theme is directly related to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-sharing (ABS) which is linked to the third objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).