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IPBES, the loss of biodiversity: 1 million species at risk

IPBES: unprecedented loss of biodiversity. It is no longer the time for half-measures and bland calls for a change of course. They are not used by IPBES, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, in the report whose summary was approved at the seventh session of the organisation's plenary session, held last week (29 April - 4 May) in Paris. If one thinks of biodiversity loss in key words, the IPBES ones leave no room for doubt: dangerous decline of nature 'without precedent'; rates of extinction of 'accelerating' species (1,000,000 species at risk); global response 'insufficient'.

"The overwhelming evidence from the global assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents a disturbing picture," said IPBES President Robert Watson, "the health of ecosystems, on which we and all other species depend, is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life around the world.

The IPBES report. Developed over the past three years by 145 experts from 50 countries, with contributions from 310 other authors, the report assesses the changes of the last five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impact on nature. It also offers a number of possible scenarios for the coming years. The IPBES dossier notes that over 1 million animal and plant species are now at risk of extinction - some within a few decades - as never before in the history of mankind. The average presence of native species in most major terrestrial habitats has decreased by at least 20%, especially since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but the available evidence supports a provisional estimate of 10% of endangered species. At least 680 vertebrate species have disappeared since the 16th century and more than 9% of all breeds of domestic mammals used for food and agriculture have died out by 2016.

"Ecosystems, species, wild populations, native varieties and species of plants and pets are shrinking, deteriorating or disappearing. The essential and interconnected network of life on Earth is becoming smaller and more frayed," was said at the Paris summit, "this loss is a direct result of human activity and poses a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.


The proposal phase. But, to those who call scientists and environmentalists apocalyptic visions, IPBES responds with a series of propositional indications, which necessarily pass through the so-called "transformative change", understood as a fundamental reorganization of the system through technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, objectives and values.

It is not easy. "The member states of the Plenary IPBES have recognized that, by its very nature, transformative change can be opposed by those who have vested interests in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the wider public good," Watson said.

Five, according to the report, the factors on which to work: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate. (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

The Report notes that, since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, increasing average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius, with climate change already impacting nature from the level of ecosystems to that of genetics: a situation that, without a reversal of the trend, is set to worsen. The IPBES also notes that global objectives for the conservation and sustainable use of nature and the achievement of sustainability cannot be achieved under current conditions. With good progress on only four of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity targets, it is likely that most of them will not be met by the 2020 deadline. Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals of poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land. Biodiversity loss is therefore not only an environmental issue, but also a question of development, economic, security, social and moral.


The numbers of IPBES to reflect on.

- Three quarters of the earth's environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average, these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by indigenous peoples and local communities.

- More than a third of the world's land area and almost 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to agricultural or livestock production.

The value of agricultural production has increased by about 300% since 1970, the harvesting of raw wood has increased by 45% and about 60 billion tonnes of renewable and non-renewable resources are used each year worldwide.

-Land degradation has reduced productivity by 23% of the global land area: about $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk of loss of pollinators and 100-300 million people are at greater risk of flooding and hurricanes due to loss of coastal habitats and protection.

-In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were fished at unsustainable levels; 60% were fished sustainably, with just 7% of catches below levels that can be fished sustainably.

-Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.

-Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980; 300-400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other industrial waste are discharged into the world's waters each year; fertilisers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 oceanic "dead zones", totalling over 245,000 km2 (591-595) - a total area larger than that of the UK.

-Negative trends in nature will continue until 2050 and beyond in all policy scenarios examined in the Report, with the exception of those that include transformational change - due to the expected impacts of increasing land-use change, land use and climate change, albeit with significant

differences between regions.

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