Biodiversity declining in every region of the world, finds four major reports

Published by Felipe Wasserstein on

March 31st, 2018

Biodiversity is declining in every region of the world, impacting nature’s capacity to provide food, water, and safety to people, four UN-backed science reports have warned.

The analysis from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is the result of three years of work by more than 550 experts from over 100 countries.

IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body set up to give policymakers objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity.

Some of the key findings from the studies include the potential depletion of exploitable fish stocks in the Asia-Pacific by 2048 and loss of over half of the bird and mammal population in Africa by 2100.

The results also found that 66 per cent of European habitats now has “unfavourable conservation status” and may become worse under a “business as usual scenario”.

This is where common pressures such as the unsustainable use of natural resources, land and water pollution, and climate change continue at current or increased rates.

Corncrake Crex crex, Ballaugh Curragh, Isle of Man Photo: Isle of Man Government

Corncrake Crex crex, Ballaugh Curragh, Isle of Man Photo: Isle of Man Government

Biodiversity Decline in Ireland

In Europe, the major threat to biodiversity is the growth of conventional agriculture and forestry, the analysis states.

The IPBES warn that further economic growth in Europe will only lead to sustainable development if it is separated from the destruction of biodiversity. This would require significant changes in policy and tax reforms at both global and national levels.

According to BirdWatch Ireland’s Fintan Kelly, the IPBES finding on Europe “echoes” the findings of conversation groups in Ireland.

“In Ireland the intensification of the agricultural and forestry sectors is driving biodiversity loss, polluting or rivers and leading to the loss of small-scale family farms which have are the backbone of many rural communities,” Mr Kelly added.

“Taking a once ubiquitous bird species like the Curlew as an example we have observed a decline of 97 per cent in the Irish population in the last 40 years.”

Regional Findings

In the Americas, climate change will significantly impact biodiversity by 2050, with a projected loss of 40 per cent, the IPBES experts found.

Indigenous people and local communities in the Americas have developed diversified polyculture and agroforestry systems. Those activities have increased biodiversity and helped to shape landscapes.

Protection of major biodiversity areas in the region has increased 17 per cent between 1970 and 2010. However, less than 20 per cent of key biodiversity areas are protected and coverage varies greatly.

In addition to the potential loss of half of the continent`s bird and mammal species by 2100, Africa may also suffer a 20 to 30 per cent decline in the productivity of lakes.

Biodiversity and Climate

The report aims to provide a knowledge base regarding biodiversity similar to the UN`s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change work on greenhouse gas emission.

The authors also highlighted the close link between climate change and biodiversity loss, and predict that by 2050 climate change may replace land conversion as the main cause of species extinction.

According to IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson, the evidence gathered through the report points to only one 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.”

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” Sir Watson added.

“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.”

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Felipe Wasserstein

Felipe is studying for an MA in Journalism and Media Communications from Griffth College Dublin. He is passionate about the environment, history, and cinema.