AboutZoos, Since 2008


Nature’s dan­ger­ous decline is ‘Unprece­dented’; Species extinc­tion rates are ‘Accelerating’

pub­lished 08 May 2019 | mod­i­fied 08 May 2019

Nature is declin­ing glob­ally at rates unprece­dented in human his­tory — and the rate of species extinc­tions is accel­er­at­ing, with grave impacts on peo­ple around the world now likely, warns a land­mark new report from the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Science-​Policy Plat­form on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices (IPBES), the sum­mary of which was approved at the 7th ses­sion of the IPBES Ple­nary, meet­ing last week (29 April — 4 May) in Paris.

Loggerhead turtle

The over­whelm­ing evi­dence of the IPBES Global Assess­ment, from a wide range of dif­fer­ent fields of knowl­edge, presents an omi­nous pic­ture. The health of ecosys­tems on which we and all other species depend is dete­ri­o­rat­ing more rapidly than ever. We are erod­ing the very foun­da­tions of our economies, liveli­hoods, food secu­rity, health and qual­ity of life worldwide.

Sir Robert Wat­son, IPBES Chair

The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a dif­fer­ence, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” Wat­son said. “Through ‘trans­for­ma­tive change’, nature can still be con­served, restored and used sus­tain­ably — this is also key to meet­ing most other global goals. By trans­for­ma­tive change, we mean a fun­da­men­tal, system-​wide reor­ga­ni­za­tion across tech­no­log­i­cal, eco­nomic and social fac­tors, includ­ing par­a­digms, goals and values.”

The mem­ber States of IPBES Ple­nary have now acknowl­edged that, by its very nature, trans­for­ma­tive change can expect oppo­si­tion from those with inter­ests vested in the sta­tus quo, but also that such oppo­si­tion can be over­come for the broader pub­lic good,” Wat­son said.

The IPBES Global Assess­ment Report on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices is the most com­pre­hen­sive ever com­pleted. It is the first inter­gov­ern­men­tal Report of its kind and builds on the land­mark Mil­len­nium Ecosys­tem Assess­ment of 2005, intro­duc­ing inno­v­a­tive ways of eval­u­at­ing evidence.

Com­piled by 145 expert authors from 50 coun­tries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 con­tribut­ing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, pro­vid­ing a com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture of the rela­tion­ship between eco­nomic devel­op­ment path­ways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios for the com­ing decades.

Based on the sys­tem­atic review of about 15,000 sci­en­tific and gov­ern­ment sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indige­nous and local knowl­edge, par­tic­u­larly address­ing issues rel­e­vant to Indige­nous Peo­ples and Local Communities.

Bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple are our com­mon her­itage and humanity’s most impor­tant life-​supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to break­ing point,” said Prof. San­dra Díaz (Argentina), who co-​chaired the Assess­ment with Prof. Josef Set­tele (Ger­many) and Prof. Eduardo S. Brondízio (Brazil and USA). “The diver­sity within species, between species and of ecosys­tems, as well as many fun­da­men­tal con­tri­bu­tions we derive from nature, are declin­ing fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sus­tain­able future for peo­ple and the planet.”

The Report finds that around 1 mil­lion ani­mal and plant species are now threat­ened with extinc­tion, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

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.

Ecosys­tems, species, wild pop­u­la­tions, local vari­eties and breeds of domes­ti­cated plants and ani­mals are shrink­ing, dete­ri­o­rat­ing or van­ish­ing. The essen­tial, inter­con­nected web of life on Earth is get­ting smaller and increas­ingly frayed,” said Prof. Set­tele. “This loss is a direct result of human activ­ity and con­sti­tutes a direct threat to human well-​being in all regions of the world.”

To increase the policy-​relevance of the Report, the assessment’s authors have ranked, for the first time at this scale and based on a thor­ough analy­sis of the avail­able evi­dence, the five direct dri­vers of change in nature with the largest rel­a­tive global impacts so far. These cul­prits are, in descend­ing order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploita­tion of organ­isms; (3) cli­mate change; (4) pol­lu­tion and (5) inva­sive alien species.

The Report notes that, since 1980, green­house gas emis­sions have dou­bled, rais­ing aver­age global tem­per­a­tures by at least 0.7 degrees Cel­sius — with cli­mate change already impact­ing nature from the level of ecosys­tems to that of genet­ics — impacts expected to increase over the com­ing decades, in some cases sur­pass­ing the impact of land and sea use change and other drivers.

Despite progress to con­serve nature and imple­ment poli­cies, the Report also finds that global goals for con­serv­ing and sus­tain­ably using nature and achiev­ing sus­tain­abil­ity can­not be met by cur­rent tra­jec­to­ries, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through trans­for­ma­tive changes across eco­nomic, social, polit­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal fac­tors. With good progress on com­po­nents of only four of the 20 Aichi Bio­di­ver­sity Tar­gets, it is likely that most will be missed by the 2020 dead­line. Cur­rent neg­a­tive trends in bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tems will under­mine progress towards 80% (35 out of 44) of the assessed tar­gets of the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals, related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, cli­mate, oceans and land. Loss of bio­di­ver­sity is there­fore shown to be not only an envi­ron­men­tal issue, but also a devel­op­men­tal, eco­nomic, secu­rity, social and moral issue as well.

To bet­ter under­stand and, more impor­tantly, to address the main causes of dam­age to bio­di­ver­sity and nature’s con­tri­bu­tions to peo­ple, we need to under­stand the his­tory and global inter­con­nec­tion of com­plex demo­graphic and eco­nomic indi­rect dri­vers of change, as well as the social val­ues that under­pin them,” said Prof. Brondízio. “Key indi­rect dri­vers include increased pop­u­la­tion and per capita con­sump­tion; tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion, which in some cases has low­ered and in other cases increased the dam­age to nature; and, crit­i­cally, issues of gov­er­nance and account­abil­ity. A pat­tern that emerges is one of global inter­con­nec­tiv­ity and ‘tele­cou­pling’ — with resource extrac­tion and pro­duc­tion often occur­ring in one part of the world to sat­isfy the needs of dis­tant con­sumers in other regions.”

Other notable find­ings of the Report include:

  • Three-​quarters of the land-​based envi­ron­ment and about 66% of the marine envi­ron­ment have been sig­nif­i­cantly altered by human actions. On aver­age these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or man­aged by Indige­nous Peo­ples and Local Communities.

  • More than a third of the world’s land sur­face and nearly 75% of fresh­wa­ter resources are now devoted to crop or live­stock production.

  • The value of agri­cul­tural crop pro­duc­tion has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw tim­ber har­vest has risen by 45% and approx­i­mately 60 bil­lion tons of renew­able and non-​renewable resources are now extracted glob­ally every year — hav­ing nearly dou­bled since 1980.

  • Land degra­da­tion has reduced the pro­duc­tiv­ity of 23% of the global land sur­face, up to US$577 bil­lion in annual global crops are at risk from pol­li­na­tor loss and 100300 mil­lion peo­ple are at increased risk of floods and hur­ri­canes because of loss of coastal habi­tats and protection.

  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being har­vested at unsus­tain­able lev­els; 60% were max­i­mally sus­tain­ably fished, with just 7% har­vested at lev­els lower than what can be sus­tain­ably fished.

  • Urban areas have more than dou­bled since 1992.

  • Plas­tic pol­lu­tion has increased ten­fold since 1980, 300400 mil­lion tons of heavy met­als, sol­vents, toxic sludge and other wastes from indus­trial facil­i­ties are dumped annu­ally into the world’s waters, and fer­til­iz­ers enter­ing coastal ecosys­tems have pro­duced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 (591595) — a com­bined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.

  • Neg­a­tive trends in nature will con­tinue to 2050 and beyond in all of the pol­icy sce­nar­ios explored in the Report, except those that include trans­for­ma­tive change — due to the pro­jected impacts of increas­ing land-​use change, exploita­tion of organ­isms and cli­mate change, although with sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences between regions.

The Report also presents a wide range of illus­tra­tive actions for sus­tain­abil­ity and path­ways for achiev­ing them across and between sec­tors such as agri­cul­ture, forestry, marine sys­tems, fresh­wa­ter sys­tems, urban areas, energy, finance and many oth­ers. It high­lights the impor­tance of, among oth­ers, adopt­ing inte­grated man­age­ment and cross-​sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-​offs of food and energy pro­duc­tion, infra­struc­ture, fresh­wa­ter and coastal man­age­ment, and bio­di­ver­sity conservation.

Also iden­ti­fied as a key ele­ment of more sus­tain­able future poli­cies is the evo­lu­tion of global finan­cial and eco­nomic sys­tems to build a global sus­tain­able econ­omy, steer­ing away from the cur­rent lim­ited par­a­digm of eco­nomic growth.

IPBES presents the author­i­ta­tive sci­ence, knowl­edge and the pol­icy options to deci­sion­mak­ers for their con­sid­er­a­tion,” said IPBES Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, Dr. Anne Lar­i­gaud­erie. “We thank the hun­dreds of experts, from around the world, who have vol­un­teered their time and knowl­edge to help address the loss of species, ecosys­tems and genetic diver­sity — a truly global and gen­er­a­tional threat to human well-​being.”

IPBES has now released the Sum­mary for Pol­i­cy­mak­ers (SPM) of the Global Assess­ment report. The SPM presents the key mes­sages and pol­icy options, as approved by the IPBES Ple­nary. The full six-​chapter Report (includ­ing all data) is expected to exceed 1,500 pages and will be pub­lished later this year.

About IPBES:
Often described as the “IPCC for bio­di­ver­sity”, IPBES is an inde­pen­dent inter­gov­ern­men­tal body com­pris­ing more than 130 mem­ber Gov­ern­ments. Estab­lished by Gov­ern­ments in 2012, it pro­vides pol­i­cy­mak­ers with objec­tive sci­en­tific assess­ments about the state of knowl­edge regard­ing the planet’s bio­di­ver­sity, ecosys­tems and the con­tri­bu­tions they make to peo­ple, as well as the tools and meth­ods to pro­tect and sus­tain­ably use these vital nat­ural assets. More infor­ma­tion about IPBES and its assess­ments avail­able here.

(Source: IPBES media release, 06.05.2019)

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

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