One million species threatened with extinction: intergovernmental report

One million species threatened with extinction: intergovernmental report

Nature is declining at unprecedented rates and the rate of extinctions is accelerating, warns a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment … 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.”

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a summary of which was approved last week, is the most comprehensive ever completed. Over the past three years it was compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, with contribution from 310 other authors.

It assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive view of the impact of economy development pathways on nature.

The IPBES found that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, but the report says it is not too late to act.

“[I]t is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” Sir Robert continued. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably — this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

According to the report, the average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals, and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened.

“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domestic plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing,” said report co-chair Professor Josef 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.”

In an effort to improve the relevance of the report to policy-making, the authors of the assessment have ranked the five direct drivers of change in nature in descending order: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

Although it acknowledges progress toward conservation, the Report finds that global goals for sustainability cannot be met using current trajectories, with transformative changes required to meet goals for 2030 and beyond.

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