AboutZoos, Since 2008


We jeop­ar­dise our­selves: Bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices con­tinue dan­ger­ous decline!

pub­lished 25 March 2018 | mod­i­fied 25 March 2018

Bio­di­ver­sity — the essen­tial vari­ety of life forms on Earth — con­tin­ues to decline in every region of the world, sig­nif­i­cantly reduc­ing nature’s capac­ity to con­tribute to people’s well-​being. This alarm­ing trend endan­gers economies, liveli­hoods, food secu­rity and the qual­ity of life of peo­ple every­where, accord­ing to four land­mark sci­ence reports released today, writ­ten by more than 550 lead­ing experts, from over 100 countries.

Sierpe river mangrove, Costa Rica

The result of three years of work, the four regional assess­ments of bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices cover the Amer­i­cas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, as well as Europe and Cen­tral Asia — the entire planet except the poles and the open oceans. The assess­ment reports were approved by the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Science-​Policy Plat­form on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices (IPBES), in Medel­lín, Colom­bia, at the 6th ses­sion of its Ple­nary. IPBES has 129 State Members.

Bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple sound, to many peo­ple, aca­d­e­mic and far removed from our daily lives,” said the Chair of IPBES, Sir Robert Wat­son, “Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth — they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our sur­vival, but of our cul­tures, iden­ti­ties and enjoy­ment of life. The best avail­able evi­dence, gath­ered by the world’s lead­ing experts, points us now to a sin­gle con­clu­sion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsus­tain­able use of nature — or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we cur­rently lead. For­tu­nately, the evi­dence also shows that we know how to pro­tect and par­tially restore our vital nat­ural assets.”

The exten­sively peer-​reviewed IPBES assess­ment reports focus on pro­vid­ing answers to key ques­tions for each of the four regions, includ­ing: why is bio­di­ver­sity impor­tant, where are we mak­ing progress, what are the main threats and oppor­tu­ni­ties for bio­di­ver­sity and how can we adjust our poli­cies and insti­tu­tions for a more sus­tain­able future?

In every region, with the excep­tion of a num­ber of pos­i­tive exam­ples where lessons can be learned, bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s capac­ity to con­tribute to peo­ple are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a num­ber of com­mon pres­sures — habi­tat stress; over­ex­ploita­tion and unsus­tain­able use of nat­ural resources; air, land and water pol­lu­tion; increas­ing num­bers and impact of inva­sive alien species and cli­mate change, among others.

Declin­ing Bio­di­ver­sity — Now and in the Future

Europe and Cen­tral Asia
A major trend is the increas­ing inten­sity of con­ven­tional agri­cul­ture and forestry, which leads to bio­di­ver­sity decline. There are also exam­ples of sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural and forestry prac­tices that are ben­e­fi­cial to bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple in the region. Nature’s mate­r­ial con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple, such as food and energy, have been pro­moted at the expense of both reg­u­lat­ing con­tri­bu­tions, such as pol­li­na­tion and soil for­ma­tion, and non-​material con­tri­bu­tions, such as cul­tural expe­ri­ences or oppor­tu­ni­ties to develop a sense of place.

The peo­ple of the region con­sume more renew­able nat­ural resources than the region pro­duces,” said Prof. Markus Fis­cher (Switzer­land), co-​chair of the Europe and Cen­tral Asia assess­ment with Prof. Mark Roun­sev­ell (UK), “Although this is some­what off-​set by higher bio­ca­pac­i­ties in East­ern Europe and north­ern parts of West­ern and Cen­tral Europe.”

In the Euro­pean Union, among assess­ments of the con­ser­va­tion sta­tus of species and habi­tat types of con­ser­va­tion inter­est, only 7% of marine species and 9% of marine habi­tat types show a ‘favourable con­ser­va­tion sta­tus’. More­over 27% of species assess­ments and 66% of habi­tat types assess­ments show an ‘unfavourable con­ser­va­tion sta­tus’, with the oth­ers cat­e­gorised as ‘unknown’.

The authors find that fur­ther eco­nomic growth can facil­i­tate sus­tain­able devel­op­ment only if it is decou­pled from the degra­da­tion of bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s capac­ity to con­tribute to peo­ple. Such decou­pling, how­ever, has not yet hap­pened, and would require far-​reaching change in poli­cies and tax reforms at the global and national levels.

Aban­don­ment of tra­di­tional land-​use sys­tems, and loss of asso­ci­ated indige­nous and local knowl­edge and prac­tices, has been wide­spread in Europe and Cen­tral Asia, the report finds. Production-​based sub­si­dies dri­ving growth in agri­cul­tural, forestry and nat­ural resource extrac­tion sec­tors tend to exac­er­bate con­flict­ing land-​use issues, often imping­ing on avail­able ter­ri­tory for tra­di­tional users. Main­te­nance of tra­di­tional land use and lifestyles in Europe and Cen­tral Asia is strongly related to insti­tu­tional ade­quacy and eco­nomic viability.

The Amer­i­cas
“In the Amer­i­cas, rich bio­di­ver­sity makes an immense con­tri­bu­tion to the qual­ity of life, help­ing to reduce poverty while strength­en­ing economies and liveli­hoods,” said Dr. Jake Rice (Canada), co-​chair of the Amer­i­cas assess­ment with Dr. Cris­tiana Simão Seixas (Brazil) and Prof. Maria Elena Zaccagnini (Argentina).

The eco­nomic value of the Amer­i­cas’ land-​based nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple is esti­mated to be more than US$24 tril­lion per year — equiv­a­lent to the region’s GDP, yet almost two-​thirds — 65% — of these con­tri­bu­tions are in decline, with 21% declin­ing strongly. Human-​induced cli­mate change, which affects tem­per­a­ture, pre­cip­i­ta­tion and the nature of extreme events, is increas­ingly dri­ving bio­di­ver­sity loss and the reduc­tion of nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple, wors­en­ing the impact of habi­tat degra­da­tion, pol­lu­tion, inva­sive species and the over­ex­ploita­tion of nat­ural resources.”

Accord­ing to the report, under a ‘busi­ness as usual’ sce­nario, cli­mate change will be the fastest grow­ing dri­ver neg­a­tively impact­ing bio­di­ver­sity by 2050 in the Amer­i­cas, becom­ing com­pa­ra­ble to the pres­sures imposed by land use change. On aver­age today, the pop­u­la­tions of species in an area are about 31% smaller than was the case at the time of Euro­pean set­tle­ment. With the grow­ing effects of cli­mate change added to the other dri­vers, this loss is pro­jected to reach 40% by 2050.

The report high­lights the fact that indige­nous peo­ple and local com­mu­ni­ties have cre­ated a diver­sity of poly­cul­ture and agro­forestry sys­tems, which have increased bio­di­ver­sity and shaped land­scapes. How­ever, the decou­pling of lifestyles from the local envi­ron­ment has eroded, for many, their sense of place, lan­guage and indige­nous local knowl­edge. More than 60% of the lan­guages in the Amer­i­cas, and the cul­tures asso­ci­ated with them, are trou­bled or dying out.

“Africa’s immense nat­ural resources and its diverse cul­tural her­itage are among its most impor­tant strate­gic assets for both human devel­op­ment and well-​being,” said Dr. Emma Archer (South Africa), co-​chair of the African assess­ment with Dr. Kale­mani Jo Mulon­goy (DRC) and Dr. Luthando Dziba (South Africa). “Africa is the last place on Earth with a wide range of large mam­mals, yet today there are more African plants, fish, amphib­ians, rep­tiles, birds and large mam­mals threat­ened than ever before by a range of both human-​induced and nat­ural causes.”

Africa is extremely vul­ner­a­ble to the impacts of cli­mate change and this is going to have severe con­se­quences for eco­nom­i­cally mar­gin­al­ized pop­u­la­tions. By 2100, cli­mate change could also result in the loss of more than half of African bird and mam­mal species, a 2030% decline in the pro­duc­tiv­ity of Africa’s lakes and sig­nif­i­cant loss of African plant species.”

The report adds that approx­i­mately 500,000 square kilo­me­tres of African land is already esti­mated to have been degraded by over­ex­ploita­tion of nat­ural resources, ero­sion, salin­iza­tion and pol­lu­tion, result­ing in sig­nif­i­cant loss of nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple. Even greater pres­sure will be placed on the continent’s bio­di­ver­sity as the cur­rent African pop­u­la­tion of 1.25 bil­lion peo­ple is set to dou­ble to 2.5 bil­lion by 2050.

Marine and coastal envi­ron­ments make sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic, social and cul­tural con­tri­bu­tions to the peo­ple of Africa. Dam­age to coral reef sys­tems, mostly due to pol­lu­tion and cli­mate change, has far-​reaching impli­ca­tions for fish­eries, food secu­rity, tourism and over­all marine biodiversity.

“Bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices con­tributed to rapid aver­age annual eco­nomic growth of 7.6% from 1990 to 2010 in the Asia-​Pacific region, ben­e­fit­ting its more than 4.5 bil­lion peo­ple. This growth, in turn, has had vary­ing impacts on bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices,” said Dr. Mad­hav Karki (Nepal), co-​chair of the Asia-​Pacific assess­ment with Dr. Son­ali Senaratna Sel­l­a­muttu (Sri Lanka). “The region’s bio­di­ver­sity faces unprece­dented threats, from extreme weather events and sea level rise, to inva­sive alien species, agri­cul­tural inten­si­fi­ca­tion and increas­ing waste and pollution.”

The report says that although there has been an over­all decline in bio­di­ver­sity, there have also been some impor­tant bio­di­ver­sity suc­cesses includ­ing, for exam­ple, increases in pro­tected areas. Over the past 25 years, marine pro­tected areas in the region increased by almost 14% and ter­res­trial pro­tected area increased by 0.3%. For­est cover increased by 2.5%, with the high­est increases in North East Asia (22.9%) and by South Asia (5.8%).

There are con­cerns, how­ever, that these efforts are insuf­fi­cient to halt the loss of bio­di­ver­sity and the decline in the value of nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple in the region. Unsus­tain­able aqua­cul­ture prac­tices, over­fish­ing and destruc­tive har­vest­ing, threaten coastal and marine ecosys­tems, with pro­jec­tions that, if cur­rent fish­ing prac­tices con­tinue, there will be no exploitable fish stocks in the region by 2048. Inter­tidal zones are also rapidly dete­ri­o­rat­ing due to human activ­i­ties, with coral reefs of crit­i­cal eco­log­i­cal, cul­tural and eco­nomic impor­tance, already under seri­ous threat, and some reefs hav­ing already been lost, espe­cially in South and South-​East Asia. Accord­ing to the report, up to 90% of corals will suf­fer severe degra­da­tion by 2050, even under con­ser­v­a­tive cli­mate change scenarios.

The report empha­sizes that cli­mate change and asso­ci­ated extreme events pose great threats, espe­cially to coastal ecosys­tems, low-​lying coastal areas and islands. Cli­mate change is also impact­ing species dis­tri­b­u­tions, pop­u­la­tion sizes, and the tim­ing of repro­duc­tion and migra­tion. Increased fre­quen­cies of pest and dis­ease out­breaks result­ing from these changes may have addi­tional neg­a­tive effects on agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and human well-​being, with impacts pro­jected to worsen.

Forests, alpine ecosys­tems, inland fresh­wa­ter and wet­lands, as well as coastal sys­tems are iden­ti­fied as the most threat­ened Asia-​Pacific ecosys­tems. The increas­ing vari­ety and abun­dance of inva­sive alien species is high­lighted as one of the region’s most seri­ous dri­vers of ecosys­tem change and bio­di­ver­sity loss.

Global devel­op­ment goals in jeopardy

One of the most impor­tant find­ings across the four IPBES regional assess­ments is that fail­ure to pri­or­i­tize poli­cies and actions to stop and reverse bio­di­ver­sity loss, and the con­tin­ued degra­da­tion of nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple, seri­ously jeop­ar­dises the chances of any region, and almost every coun­try, meet­ing their global devel­op­ment tar­gets,” said Dr. Anne Lar­i­gaud­erie, the Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of IPBES.

Achieve­ment of the UN’s Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs), the Strate­gic Plan for Bio­di­ver­sity 20112020 and its Aichi Bio­di­ver­sity Tar­gets, and the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change, all depend on the health and vital­ity of our nat­ural envi­ron­ment in all its diver­sity and com­plex­ity. Act­ing to pro­tect and pro­mote bio­di­ver­sity is at least as impor­tant to achiev­ing these com­mit­ments and to human well­be­ing as is the fight against global cli­mate change”.

Richer, more diverse ecosys­tems are bet­ter able to cope with dis­tur­bances — such as extreme events and the emer­gence of dis­eases. They are our ‘insur­ance pol­icy’ against unfore­seen dis­as­ters and, used sus­tain­ably, they also offer many of the best solu­tions to our most press­ing challenges.”

The assess­ment of the Amer­i­cas con­cludes that con­tin­ued bio­di­ver­sity loss could under­mine the achieve­ment of some of the SDGs as well as some of the inter­na­tional climate-​related goals, tar­gets and aspirations.

All the plau­si­ble future sce­nar­ios explored in the Africa assess­ment high­light that the dri­vers of bio­di­ver­sity loss will increase, with asso­ci­ated neg­a­tive impacts on nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple and human well-​being. Achiev­ing the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the SDGs and the Aichi Tar­gets is unlikely in three out of five sce­nar­ios explored.

The experts of the Asia-​Pacific assess­ment point to the value of ecosys­tem based approaches and iden­tify, among oth­ers, lack of solid waste man­age­ment, as well as air, water and land pol­lu­tion as fac­tors under­min­ing gains in a num­ber of the Aichi Tar­gets and SDGs for many coun­tries (e.g. extinc­tion of plant and ani­mal species due to defor­esta­tion, ris­ing tem­per­a­ture and water pollution).

There has been some progress towards achiev­ing the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals and the Aichi Bio­di­ver­sity Tar­gets in Europe and Cen­tral Asia, e.g. in terms of the area under pro­tec­tion and in main­stream­ing bio­di­ver­sity across gov­ern­ment and soci­ety. How­ever, the pres­sures on bio­di­ver­sity from direct dri­vers of change are unlikely to be reduced and so progress has been neg­a­tive for indige­nous and local knowl­edge, the equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of nature’s con­tri­bu­tions and water secu­rity. Look­ing beyond the 2030 timescale of the SDGs, sce­nario analy­sis high­lights that con­tin­u­a­tion of past and cur­rent trends in dri­vers of change will inhibit the con­tri­bu­tion of the region to the wide­spread achieve­ment of the SDGs, while sce­nar­ios which focus on achiev­ing a bal­anced sup­ply of nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple and incor­po­rate a diver­sity of val­ues are more likely to con­tribute to achiev­ing the major­ity of the SDGs.

Promis­ing pol­icy options are available

Accom­pa­ny­ing the stark con­cerns of the IPBES experts, how­ever, are mes­sages of hope: promis­ing pol­icy options do exist and have been found to work in pro­tect­ing and restor­ing bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple, where they have been effec­tively applied.

Although there are no ‘sil­ver bul­lets’ or ‘one-​size-​fits all’ answers, the best options in all four regional assess­ments are found in bet­ter gov­er­nance, inte­grat­ing bio­di­ver­sity con­cerns into sec­toral poli­cies and prac­tices (e.g. agri­cul­ture and energy), the appli­ca­tion of sci­en­tific knowl­edge and tech­nol­ogy, increased aware­ness and behav­ioural changes.

Sir Robert Wat­son, Chair of IPBES

In the Amer­i­cas, pro­tec­tion of key bio­di­ver­sity areas increased 17% between 1970 and 2010, yet fewer than 20% of key bio­di­ver­sity areas are pro­tected and cov­er­age varies sig­nif­i­cantly. The report makes it clear that pro­tected areas and restora­tion projects are only some of the pos­si­ble inter­ven­tions — with a need to also focus on strate­gies to make human-​dominated land­scapes more sup­port­ive of bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to people.

It also makes the point that bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple are bet­ter pro­tected when inte­grated into a broad array of eco­nomic and sec­toral poli­cies, such as pay­ment for ecosys­tem ser­vices and vol­un­tary eco-​certification. Appro­pri­ate com­bi­na­tions of, for exam­ple, behav­ioural change, improved tech­nol­ogy, research, ade­quate lev­els of finance, improved edu­ca­tion and pub­lic aware­ness pro­grams are among other options.

Mea­sures taken by African Gov­ern­ments to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple, have con­tributed to some recov­ery of threat­ened species, espe­cially in key bio­di­ver­sity areas, and these efforts could be enhanced. Such mea­sures include the estab­lish­ment and effec­tive man­age­ment of pro­tected areas and net­works of wildlife cor­ri­dors; restora­tion of degraded ecosys­tems; con­trol of inva­sive alien species and rein­tro­duc­tion of wild ani­mals. Despite the African Union’s pri­or­i­ties of poverty alle­vi­a­tion, inclu­sive growth and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, espe­cially in the con­text of global cli­mate change, the report finds that the con­ti­nent is greatly under­valu­ing its nat­ural resources.

In addi­tion to enhanc­ing bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion through appro­pri­ate gov­er­nance, poli­cies and national imple­men­ta­tion, the authors empha­size the need for bet­ter inte­gra­tion of indige­nous and local knowl­edge and greater use of sce­nar­ios in African decision-​making. Of the five pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios they explore, two (regional sus­tain­abil­ity and local sus­tain­abil­ity) are iden­ti­fied as the most likely paths to meet Africa’s eco­nomic, social and envi­ron­men­tal devel­op­ment aspi­ra­tions, but the authors point to the need for capac­ity build­ing on the use of sce­nar­ios in decision-​making.

For Asia and the Pacific, the IPBES experts point to the suc­cess of coun­tries that achieved rapid eco­nomic growth in grad­u­ally restor­ing and expand­ing pro­tected areas — espe­cially forests. They empha­size that, while assist­ing these coun­tries in their efforts to meet some of the SDGs and Aichi Tar­gets, this alone will not be suf­fi­cient to reduce bio­di­ver­sity loss caused by the neg­a­tive impacts of mono­cul­ture. For instance, the region reg­is­tered a growth of 0.3% in ter­res­trial pro­tected areas and 13.8% in marine pro­tected areas — putting many coun­tries on track to meet Aichi Tar­get 11 — but most of the impor­tant bird areas and key bio­di­ver­sity areas remain unprotected.”

Bet­ter appli­ca­tion of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, empow­er­ment of local com­mu­ni­ties in deci­sion mak­ing, inte­grat­ing bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion into other key sec­tors, sce­nario plan­ning that is sen­si­tive to eco­nomic and cul­tural diver­sity, pri­vate sec­tor part­ner­ships in financ­ing bio­di­ver­sity pro­tec­tion, as well as bet­ter cross-​border regional col­lab­o­ra­tion, are some of the many impor­tant approaches the report identifies.

A range of gov­er­nance options, poli­cies and man­age­ment prac­tices is avail­able in Europe and Cen­tral Asia to safe­guard bio­di­ver­sity and ensure nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple. Some progress has already been made in main­stream­ing bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple into pub­lic and pri­vate decision-​making.

The assess­ment report high­lights inte­grated approaches. These include mea­sur­ing national wel­fare beyond GDP. Gov­er­nance could become more effec­tive by using well-​designed mixes of pol­icy instru­ments to moti­vate changes in behav­iour to sup­port sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. The authors also empha­size the rel­e­vance of rec­on­cil­ing bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion and human rights stan­dards through rights-​based instru­ments, as well as capac­ity build­ing for indige­nous peo­ples and local com­mu­ni­ties. Suf­fi­cient fund­ing is also needed to sup­port research, mon­i­tor­ing, edu­ca­tion and training.

Speak­ing about the pol­icy options emerg­ing from the four regional assess­ments, Sir Robert Wat­son added: “It is also clear that indige­nous and local knowl­edge can be an invalu­able asset, and bio­di­ver­sity issues need to receive much higher pri­or­ity in pol­icy mak­ing and devel­op­ment plan­ning at every level. Cross-​border col­lab­o­ra­tion is also essen­tial, given that bio­di­ver­sity chal­lenges rec­og­nize no national boundaries.”

IPBES has released the pdfSum­mary for Pol­i­cy­mak­ers (SPM) of each of the four reports on 21 March. The SPMs present the key mes­sages and pol­icy options from each assess­ment, as approved by the IPBES Ple­nary. The com­plete reports (inclu­sive of all data) will be pub­lished later this year.

(Source: IPBES media release, 23.03.2018)

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