A million species threatened by human activity

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Posted in: From the Field

Calls for transformative change across all levels and factors.

 

Paris, May 7, 2019: Around a million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. Not only is this loss a direct result of human activity but also constitutes a direct threat to human well-being. Among the main drivers of this change are, changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution and invasive species.

This is the conclusion of one of the most exhaustive intergovernmental report of its kind, compiled by around 455 authors from 50 countries over the past three years, to assess changes over the past five decades.

The report offers some hope on a reversal of the trend and global goals of sustainability, but only if there is a transformative change at all levels from local to global, and across economic, social, political and technological factors. Most of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets will not be met by the 2020 deadline.

More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. Around 10% insects are threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.

Key indirect drivers include increased population and per capita consumption; technological innovation, which in some cases has lowered and in other cases increased the damage to nature; and, critically, issues of governance and accountability.

The report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir 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 worldwide.”

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point,” said Prof. Sandra Díaz (Argentina), who co-chaired the Assessment with Prof. Josef Settele (Germany) and Prof. Eduardo S. Brondízio (Brazil and USA). “The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet.”

“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” said Prof. Settele. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.

The Report notes that, since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising 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 – impacts expected to increase over the coming decades, in some cases surpassing the impact of land and sea use change and other drivers.

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