Decline in global biodiversity alarming -study

World leaders have failed to deliver on commitments to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss and have instead overseen an alarming decline, according to a new paper published in leading journal Science.

According to Conservation International (CI), these findings represent the first assessment of the targets made through the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which had set 2010 as the target for reduction. Compiling over 30 indicators–measures of different aspects of biodiversity, including changes in species’ populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition–the study found no evidence for a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity. Instead, it found that the pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase and said the synthesis provides overwhelming evidence that the target has not been achieved. “Our analysis shows that… biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems,” Dr Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International, the paper’s lead author said. “Our data show that 2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet,” he added.

According to CI, the indicators in the study were developed and synthesized through the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, which is a collaboration of over 40 international organisations and agencies developing global biodiversity indicators and the leading source of information on trends in global biodiversity. Matt Foster, Director of Conservation Outcomes at CI said, “The steep loss of biodiversity is affecting us all, but mainly those who are already the most vulnerable and dependent on nature for water, food and medicines.” He said too world leaders meeting in Japan in October must be more ambitious in halting biodiversity loss as survival depends on it.

UNEP’s Chief Scientist Professor Joseph Alcamo said since 1970 “we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%.” These losses are unsustainable since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human wellbeing and sustainable development as recognised by the UN Development Goals, Alcamo said. CI said the results of the study feed into Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, the flagship publication of the CBD that is set for release in Nairobi on May 10, when government representatives from across the globe will meet to discuss the 2010 target and how to address the biodiversity crisis. “Although nations have put in place some significant policies to slow biodiversity declines, these have been woefully inadequate, and the gap between the pressures on biodiversity and the responses is getting even wider,” Dr Butchart said.

The study also recognised that there have been some important national successes in tackling biodiversity loss, including the designation of many protected areas, for example the 20,000 square kilometres Juruena National Park in Brazil; and the recovery of particular species; the European Bison, and the prevention of some extinctions; the Black Stilt of New Zealand. However; despite these encouraging achievements, efforts to address the loss of biodiversity need to be substantially strengthened and sustained investment in coherent global biodiversity monitoring and indicators is essential to track and improve the effectiveness of these responses.

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