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Dangerous decline in biodiversity

Dangerous decline in biodiversity

A recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) concludes that 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[1].

The report concludes that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global. Transformative change – a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors – is needed to conserve nature.

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.

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 etc. It highlights the importance of adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management as well as biodiversity conservation.

The pace of agricultural expansion into intact ecosystems has varied from country to country. Losses of intact ecosystems have occurred primarily in the tropics, home to the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet. For example, 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost from 1980 to 2000, mainly due to cattle ranching in Latin America (about 42 million hectares) and plantations in South-East Asia (about 7.5 million hectares, of which 80% is for palm oil, used mostly in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuel).

In agriculture, the report emphasises promoting good agricultural and agroecological practices, multifunctional landscape planning (which simultaneously provides food security, livelihood opportunities, maintenance of species and ecological functions) and cross-sectoral integrated management. It also points to the need for deeper engagement of all actors throughout the food system (including producers, the public sector, civil society and consumers) and adoption of approaches that empower consumers and producers through market transparency, improved distribution and localisation (that revitalises local economies) as well as reformed supply chains and reduced food waste.

In marine systems, the report recommends an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management is required in conjunction with spatial planning, effective quotas and marine protected areas. Freshwater systems need more inclusive water governance, better integration of water resource management and landscape planning and improved practices to reduce soil erosion, sedimentation and pollution run-off.



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