The IAEA supports countries in the use of nuclear and isotopic techniques to better understand, strengthen and restore ecosystems that not only provide homes to animals and plants, the biological diversity they incorporate, but are also at the core of maintaining the balance that allow biodiversity to flourish. Ecosystems are interconnected systems of diverse components (air, water, soil) and organisms (animal, plants, microorganisms). Expanding urban areas, agricultural activities and industry can have an impact on biological diversity of ecosystems (mainly seen though the number of animal or plants composing them, e.g. the sum of visible organisms), but also on the ecosystem biodiversity (its capacity to maintain or create biological diversity through the connections between the ecosystem components and organisms and its resilience to changes). The IAEA conducts research and provides expertise on processes and stressors, such as pollution or climate change, which could result in biodiversity loss.
For instance, in 2021, the IAEA launched a four-year long CRP that uses isotopes to better understand the fluxes of water in wetland–groundwater ecosystems (click here for more information). Wetlands and groundwater systems are connected as wetlands occur in areas where groundwater is discharged and serve as a transition point between groundwater and surface water. “Understanding this connectivity is critical for the long-term protection of wetlands as well as sustainability of groundwater systems that depend on them,” said Lucia Ortega, Isotope Hydrologist at the IAEA.