Leading biodiversity experts declare that the indirect drivers of nature’s decline must be addressed to prevent the loss of 1 million species, in a new article by IPBES featured in Science.

According to the authors, human’s ever-increasing demand for natural resources and related land-use change are the key driving forces behind global biodiversity loss. Since the 1970s, per-capita consumption has increased by 45% while global economic activity has increased by more than 300%. These trends are compromising 80% of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals.

The findings were published in the latest Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

The new article distils for the scientific community the most salient and novel findings, messages and policy options of the Global Assessment Report, which was approved by representatives of the 132 member Governments of IPBES in May this year.

Scientific research included in the report found that:

  • 1 million species of plants and animals risk extinction within a matter of decades, especially large, slow-growing, habitat specialist or carnivores – such as large cats, large sharks, primates, reef-building corals and woody plants.
  • Almost three quarters of land and 66% of marine environments have been significantly altered by humanity.
  • More than 85% of wetland areas have been lost.

The report also highlights that it is not too late to make a difference – society has been responding, but a more coordinated and robust international response is urgently required. The authors provide five priority interventions (“levers”) and eight leverage points for action to address these indirect drivers of social and economic systems, where Governments can make the greatest difference.

“Urgent action on land and sea use change, exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and alien invasive species is important – but not enough,” said Prof. Sandra Díaz, lead author of the new paper and Co-chair of the IPBES Global Assessment Report.

“The challenges posed by biodiversity loss and climate change are deeply interconnected and need to be addressed holistically at all levels. Reversal of recent declines – and a sustainable global future – are only possible with urgent transformative change tackling the interconnected economic, socio-cultural, demographic, political, institutional and technological indirect drivers of nature’s deterioration.”, Prof. Diaz added.

Under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) the Global Assessment Report will form the scientific and technical evidence base for intergovernmental negotiations in Kunming, China in 2020 to agree on a global biodiversity framework for the next decade, replacing the Aichi Biodiversity Targets which expire next year.

In a recent move, described by the EU Environment Committee as a a “game-changer in the fight against climate change”, the European finance sector is set to conform to stricter environmental sustainability standards, including biodiversity protection, under a new unified classification system called the Taxonomy Regulation.

UN-SPBF and biodiversity monitoring

Under the principle of we cannot protect what we cannot measure, the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment is collaborating with international partners on developing a Global Platform for Big Data on the Environment to monitor changes in natural ecosystems to help inform scientists and policy makers.

Find out more about the Forum’s work on Big Data for the Environment and more

Image: Dave Pape

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