Scientists urge quick, sweeping changes to halt biodiversity loss

New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) Halting, then reversing the dangerous, ongoing loss of Earth’s plant and animal diversity requires far more than an expanded global system of protected areas of land and seas, scientists warned.

Needed is successful, coordinated action across a diverse, interconnected set of “transformative” changes, including massive reductions in harmful agricultural and fishing subsidies, deep reductions in overconsumption, and holding climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

More than 50 scientists from 23 countries on Wednesday delivered to governments a synthesis of the science informing and underpinning 21 targets proposed in the draft apost-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’ being negotiated under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and scheduled for adoption later this year at a world biodiversity summit in China.

The analysis was coordinated by two renowned international science bodies: bioDISCOVERY, a programme of the Future Earth organization, and the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON).

Says Paul Leadley, an assessment leader, past chair of bioDISCOVERY, and Professor at Paris-Saclay University, France: “The target of protecting 30 per cent of all land and seas is important and attracting a lot of attention. And expanding protected areas is a good start if done well, but far short of what’s needed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss — called abending the curve’ for biodiversity’.

“There’s very good evidence that we will fail again to meet ambitious international biodiversity objectives if there’s too much focus on protected areas at the expense of other urgent actions addressing the threats to biodiversity.

“Governments are clearly struggling with the breadth and depth of the atransformative changes’ needed to bend the curve for biodiversity, and sometimes seem unwilling to face up to it. But deep changes are necessary and will greatly benefit people in the long run.”

The essential point, says bioDISCOVERY co-Chair Lynne Shannon, a Professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, is that “there is no one-to-one linkage from any action target to a specific milestone or goal; instead, ‘many-to-many’ relationships exist among them”.

“We need to recognise, therefore, the complex relationships among targets, milestones and goals and undertake our planning and actions in an integrated manner.”

Among the group’s key conclusions and recommendations: Success requires transformative change. Past experience in slowing and reversing biodiversity loss as well as scenarios of future biodiversity change show that only a comprehensive portfolio of interrelated actions will significantly reduce direct threats to biodiversity from land and sea use change, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species.

None of the Global Biodiversity Framework targets that address these direct threats to biodiversity will alone contribute more than 15 per cent of what’s needed to reach the world’s ultimate goals for ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.

Action must be coordinated at every scale, with progress assessed frequently. The degree of biodiversity change, and the relative importance of drivers, vary greatly across scales and from place to place, and drivers in one place can affect biodiversity in other places far away (“telecoupling,” e.g. through global trade, climate change, etc).

Success will require action coordinated across local, national and international levels, in natural and managed ecosystems, and across intact and aworking’ lands and seas.

Says co-author Maria Cecilia LondoAo Murcia of the Humboldt Institute, Colombia: “The sooner we act the better. Time lags between action and positive outcomes for biodiversity can take decades so we must act immediately and sustain our efforts if we are to reach the global goals by 2050.”

–IANS

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