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Biodiversity and Nature’s Contributions Continue Dangerous Decline, Scientists Warn

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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.

 

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.

Link to comprehensive media release of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

 

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