Biodiversity in decline, a global challenge

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – an intergovernmental body inspired by the IPCC – is a global warning about the rate acceleration of extinction of species. The data come from an ecosystem assessment over the last fifty years (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005) and are explained by 145 experts (supported by 310 other experts) from 50 countries (15,000 scientific references and indigenous knowledge). This report makes it possible to understand the link between the transformations of natural and human environments.

According to this report (IPBES, 2019), one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, which causes wider impacts on humans due to the loss of ecosystem quality. “The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.”

This provokes impacts in terms of access to resources, especially for food, so the sustainable development objectives cannot be achieved in terms of poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and soils. The degradation factors, according to the report’s authors, are: land and sea use changes, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive exotic species. Indirect factors are related to population growth and per capita consumption, technological innovations, forms of governance. “Recognition of the knowledge, innovations and practices, institutions and values of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities and their inclusion and participation in environmental governance often enhances their quality of life, as well as nature conservation, restoration and sustainable use. “

Six scenarios have been developed to highlight these phenomena in a form of foresight, including: “regional competition”, “maintaining the status quo” and “global sustainability”. Three-quarters of the Earth’s environment has been modified by humans and three-quarters of freshwater resources are for agriculture; agricultural production has increased by 45% since 1970 and timber harvest by 45%; urban areas have more than doubled since 1992; plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980; etc.

The report advocates multiscale transformation at the level of the whole system (technological, political, economic and social dimensions) in order to solve these problems. The idea is to adopt integrated management and intersectoral approaches between food, energy, water, biodiversity conservation and urban development systems.

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  • Reports:

“Nature makes human development possible but our relentless demand for the earth’s resources is accelerating extinction rates and devastating the world’s ecosystems. UN Environment is proud to support the Global Assessment Report produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services because it highlights the critical need to integrate biodiversity considerations in global decision-making on any sector or challenge, whether its water or agriculture, infrastructure or business.”

– Joyce Msuya, Acting Head, UN Environment

“Across cultures, humans inherently value nature. The magic of seeing fireflies flickering long into the night is immense. We draw energy and nutrients from nature. We find sources of food, medicine, livelihoods and innovation in nature. Our well-being fundamentally depends on nature. Our efforts to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems must be underpinned by the best science that humanity can produce. This is why the scientific evidence compiled in this IPBES Global Assessment is so important. It will help us build a stronger foundation for shaping the post 2020 global biodiversity framework: the ‘New Deal for Nature and People’; and for achieving the SDGs.”

– Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme

“This essential report reminds each of us of the obvious truth: the present generations have the responsibility to bequeath to future generations a planet that is not irreversibly damaged by human activity. Our local, indigenous and scientific knowledge are proving that we have solutions and so no more excuses: we must live on earth differently. UNESCO is committed to promoting respect of the living and of its diversity, ecological solidarity with other living species, and to establish new, equitable and global links of partnership and intragenerational solidarity, for the perpetuation of humankind.”

– Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO

“The Global Assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services adds a major element to the body of evidence for the importance of biodiversity to efforts to achieve the Zero Hunger objective and meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Together, assessments undertaken by IPBES, FAO, CBD and other organizations point to the urgent need for action to better conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and to the importance of cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration among decision-makers and other stakeholders at all levels.”

– José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations