International concern to develop sustainably challenges us to act upon the inherent links between our economy, society and environment, and is leading to increasing acknowledgement of biodiversity’s importance.

This review discusses the breadth of ways in which biodiversity can support sustainable development. It uses the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a basis for exploring scientific evidence of the benefits delivered by biodiversity. It focuses on papers that provide examples of how biodiversity components (that is, ecosystems, species and genes) directly deliver benefits that may contribute to the achievement of individual SDGs. It also considers how biodiversity’s direct contributions to fulfilling some SDGs may indirectly support the achievement of other SDGs to which biodiversity does not contribute directly. How the attributes (for example, diversity, abundance or composition) of biodiversity components influence the benefits delivered is also presented, where described by the papers reviewed.

While acknowledging potential negative impacts and trade-offs between different benefits, the study concludes that biodiversity may contribute to fulfilment of all SDGs.