AboutZoos, Since 2008


Most nations lack means to assess bio­di­ver­sity, key ecosys­tem ser­vices and their value

pub­lished 13 Novem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Novem­ber 2014

Although com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing bio­di­ver­sity, most of the world’s nations are not able to mea­sure and assess their genetic and bio­log­i­cal resources, nor the value of the key ecosys­tem ser­vices nature pro­vides to them, inter­na­tional experts from 72 coun­tries warned last week.

IPBES logoIn addi­tion to tax­on­o­mists, nations lack econ­o­mists able to put a value on the water purifi­ca­tion, storm pro­tec­tion and other ser­vices of nature, which would inform trade-​off choices in devel­op­ment plan­ning. And fewer nations still, deploy social sci­en­tists to esti­mate nature’s non-​economic (e.g. cul­tural) val­ues, or to find ways to effec­tu­ate needed changes in human atti­tudes and behaviour.

Those con­cerns drove a three-​day meet­ing of 300 sci­en­tists in Malaysia, look­ing at how best to help coun­tries develop rel­e­vant exper­tise across a span of dis­ci­plines to take up these crit­i­cal tasks.

Strength­en­ing the abil­ity of nations to con­duct bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem service-​related assess­ments for bet­ter informed pol­icy decision-​making is a key man­date of the United Nation’s (UN) Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Plat­form on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices (IPBES), which organ­ised the meet­ing, hosted by the Malaysian Industry-​Government Group for High Tech­nol­ogy (MIGHT) and sup­ported by the Gov­ern­ment of Nor­way. IPBES is chaired by Prof. Emer­i­tus Dato’ Sri Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, the Sci­ence Advi­sor to the Prime Min­is­ter of Malaysia.

The knowl­edge deficit is high. Only less than 2 mil­lion of an esti­mated 10.8 mil­lion species on land and in the oceans have been sci­en­tif­i­cally described. To know them is to learn about their niche in a healthy ecosystem.
Dato’ Sri Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid, IPBES chair »

“Most nations have yet to devote ade­quate resources to prop­erly mea­sure and assess it [bio­di­ver­sity] along with the value of ecosys­tem ser­vices. Cor­rect­ing that, is a pri­or­ity assign­ment from the world com­mu­nity to IPBES,” said Dato’ Sri Dr. Zakri, who also sits in the UN Secretary-General’s Sci­ence Advi­sory Board. He fur­ther said that bio­di­ver­sity sci­en­tists, who see a cri­sis loom­ing in the rapid rate of loss of species and ecosys­tem ser­vices, in many areas need to reach out fur­ther to key stakeholders.

The UN’s new Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals in 2015, now under con­sid­er­a­tion, are expected to include biodiversity-​related tar­gets for achieve­ment by 2030, together with indi­ca­tors of progress, he said.

The capacity-​building chal­lenges are bro­ken down into three imme­di­ate tasks: iden­tify the widely-​varying exist­ing resources and needs of indi­vid­ual nations and regions, set pri­or­i­ties for help­ing them address deficits, and cre­ate a way to mon­i­tor the ade­quacy of national capac­i­ties on an ongo­ing basis.

Sci­en­tific papers have doc­u­mented how bio­di­ver­sity have ben­e­fited humans. The Eco­nom­ics of Ecosys­tems and Bio­di­ver­sity (TEEB), for exam­ple, esti­mated in 2010 that 63 mil­lion hectares of wet­lands pro­vide some USD 3.4 bil­lion in storm pro­tec­tion, food and other ser­vices to humans annu­ally. Mean­while, defor­esta­tion will cost the global econ­omy up to USD 4.5 tril­lion every year. The rain­for­est in Malaysia itself is esti­mated to be around 130 mil­lion years old.

Sir Robert Wat­son, IPBES vice-​chair, stressed that social sci­en­tists are needed to eval­u­ate nature’s non-​economic val­ues to be fac­tored also into trade-​off con­sid­er­a­tions by policy-​makers. He noted that the UK’s efforts at such an assess­ment involved detailed data­bases dat­ing back sev­eral decades, a highly skilled sci­en­tific com­mu­nity, and about USD 5 mil­lion in expense despite the dona­tion of time to the cause by many experts.

“In essence, three abil­i­ties are needed: gen­er­ate knowl­edge, assess it, and then use it — in gov­ern­ment, in pri­vate sec­tor and civil soci­ety as well. Capac­ity build­ing is needed everywhere.”

Some coun­tries may begin by pool­ing and shar­ing resources to cre­ate, inter­pret and use at regional and sub-​regional rather than strictly national assess­ments of bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem services.

The rec­om­men­da­tions will be brought for­ward to the IPBES sec­ond world ple­nary ses­sion, Decem­ber 914 in Antalya, Turkey.

(Source: MIGHT press release, 06.11.2013)

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Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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