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Biodiversity continues to decline globally, warn scientists

Biodiversity continues to decline globally, warn scientists

Medellín (Colombia): The world’s leading experts said on said that biodiversity continues to decline in every region, 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 here, written by more than 550 leading experts from over 100 countries.

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 129-member Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in this Colombian town at the sixth session of its Plenary.

“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,” Chair of IPBES Sir Robert Watson said in a statement.

“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.

Those pressures are 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.

“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 birds and mammal species, a 20-30 per cent decline in the productivity of Africa’s lakes and significant loss of African plant species,” says a report.

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.

A report specific to Asia-Pacific says biodiversity and ecosystem services contributed to rapid average annual economic growth of 7.6 per cent from 1990 to 2010 in the Asia-Pacific region, benefiting its more than 4.5 billion people.

“This growth, in turn, has had varying impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services,” said Madhav Karki, co-chair of the Asia-Pacific assessment, with Sonali Senaratna Sellamuttu.

“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, increase in protected areas.

Over the past 25 years, marine protected areas in the region increased by almost 14 per cent and terrestrial protected area by 0.3 per cent.

Forest cover increased by 2.5 per cent, with the highest increases in North East Asia (22.9 per cent) and by South Asia (5.8 per cent).

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.

Sounding an alarming note, the report says 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.

IANS