Dying animals and plants is bad, but it does not affect me. With this presentation, the authors of the United Nations World Report on the state of nature clear up thoroughly. They provide depressing numbers – and make it clear how we could save the species.

According to a comprehensive world report, humanity lets nature disappear from the earth at breakneck speed. There is now overwhelming evidence that drew a sinister image, warned the Chairman of the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), Robert Watson. “We are globally eroding the very basis of our economies, livelihoods, food security and quality of life.” The world community should urgently turn away from economic growth as a central goal to a more sustainable systems, he said.

In its first global report on the state of biodiversity, the United Nations agency puts together scary facts: out of an estimated eight million animal and plant species worldwide, around one million are at risk of extinction. The extent of species extinction has never been as great in human history as it is today – and the rate of extinction continues to grow. Three quarters of the natural areas on the continents have already been significantly modified by humans, two-thirds in the seas.

There is still time for countermeasures

Time and again, the authors point out that the loss of biodiversity is not a purely environmental issue, but also influences development, the economy, political stability and social aspects such as refugee flows. Serious consequences for people worldwide are now likely, they warn. However, it is not too late for countermeasures, Watson explained, “but only if we start immediately at all local to global levels”. It requires fundamental changes in technologies, economics and society, including paradigms, goals and values.

“Biodiversity and the natural gifts of man are our common heritage and the most important safety net for the survival of humanity,” explained Argentine Sandra Díaz. However, this network is now burdened almost to rupture. Díaz, an ecologist at the National University of Córdoba, is the lead author of the IPBES report alongside Josef Settele of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Halle and the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Brondízio.

20 percent of the species disappeared on average

In most of the habitats in the countryside, the number of naturally occurring species has dwindled on average by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900, another of the key messages in the report. More than 40 percent of amphibian species, nearly 33 percent of reef-building corals and more than a third of all marine mammal species are threatened. Even with livestock, the diversity is dwindling: More than 9 percent of mammal breeds domesticated for use as a meat supplier or work animal would be extinct soon.

The losses in ecosystems, wildlife and livestock are a direct result of human activity – “and create a direct threat to the well-being of humanity in all regions of the world,” said Settele. Although there is progress, even the already agreed goals for the preservation of nature and its sustainable use are not achievable on the path that has been taken so far. Germany is not excluded: “The German and European biodiversity strategy is a paper tiger, which has brought too little progress,” said the agricultural ecologist Teja Tscharntke of the Georg August University of Göttingen.

Rapid growth of the world population

The authors have weighted the main causes of the devastating change in importance. Thus, the most significant impact has been the altered use of land and sea, followed by direct exploitation of living things, climate change, pollution and invasive immigrant species. The importance of climate change will increase over the next few decades and, at least in some areas, continue to be at the top of the main causes.

Many of the developments listed in the report are closely linked to the rapid growth of the world’s population. Agricultural crop yields have quadrupled since 1970. Logging has increased by almost 50 percent. 60 billion tons of renewable and non-renewable resources are mined annually – almost twice as many as in 1980. The urban area with built-up areas is now more than twice as large as in 1992. Since 1980, the plastic waste pollution has increased tenfold large quantities of heavy metals, poisons and other wastes from factories go into the water, according to the report.

Preparation for conference in China

A similar, less detailed global check was last presented 14 years ago. For the new edition, 145 authors from 50 countries, supported by more than 300 other experts, contributed three years of existing knowledge from around 15,000 studies and other documents. Delegates from the 132 IPBES member states debated the exact wording of the summary in Paris. The paper presented contains the key points of a comprehensive analysis that will be published later.

Similar to the papers of the World Council on Climate Change (IPCC), the Biodiversity Report aims to create an internationally accepted state of play on the situation and possible solutions. Involved researchers hope that this will give species protection a new impetus and initiate a change in the direction of sustainable development. Particularly important is the report for the World Conservation Conference 2020 in China. There, the cornerstones for the global conservation of species after 2020 are to be determined.

What do you think about this report and if you think like me that we have to act right away what is your contribution to solve the problem? I look forward to your feedback and thoughts on that subject matter.


Categorised in: Environment, Lifestyle, Pressroom