Increased population worldwide puts increased pressure on decreasing marine resources. Overfishing is consequently one of the most urgent issues related to biodiversity loss reduction. Photo: S. Zeff/Azote

Smart, but smart enough?

Researchers evaluate the 2020 targets for biodiversity loss reduction.

Despite it being the International Year of Biodiversity, the vast majority of nations have fallen far short of the Convention on Biological Diversity´s (CBD) 2010 target to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity. Parallel to this, centre researchers have previously presented gloomy scenarios on the global change impacts on biodiversity.

This has prompted the CBD to look another ten years ahead and develop a new strategic plan of action which includes 20 SMART (Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, Timebound) targets for 2020.
 
These targets will then be negotiated at the upcoming 10th Conference of the Parties held in Nagoya, Japan.
 
Putting colours on the targets
In an upcoming article in Science, centre researcher Thomas Elmqvist, along with researchers from the US, Argentina, Chile, France, Germany and the UK, has evaluated the 20 targets set by CBD.
 
The evaluation has been done through a set of colour-codes where:
 
- Red targets refer to imminent threats of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services due either to the collapse of ecosystems or populations, or to the rapid growth of pests or pathogens

- Green targets are those related to protected areas and conservation of species

- Blue targets address the longer-term scientific, socio-economic and institutional conditions required to meet and sustain the red and green targets.
 
Elmqvist and his colleagues considered the most urgent issues - red alerts - to those related to the end of overfishing, curbing pollution from excess nutrients and control of invasive alien, indicating an urgency to solve them within the next ten years.
 
A significant improvement, but...
Overall, Elmqvist and his colleagues found that the 2020 targets are a significant improvement over the previous 2010 single target. However, the new targets could also be strengthened in several ways:

- If there have to be 20 targets, then they should address the 20 biggest threats to critical ecosystem services, says Elmqvist.
 
Using the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as a template, they found that four things were missing:

- Functional diversity: the targets are too focused on hierarchical classification rather than assessing the function the species have

- Trade-offs among targets: different services require different diversity, we cannot have it all

- Conditionality of targets: targets should be conditional since ecological functioning may change because the environmental conditions change

- Side-effects of targets: most targets ignore potential side effects of achieving the target
 
To deal with these issues, the researchers welcome the establishment of an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which would create the capacity needed to evaluate the progress on several of the 20 targets.

- It provides an ideal opportunity to put in place a more structured sequence of objectives for the collective management of the biosphere, says Elmqvist.

See interview with Gretchen Daily, Gretchen Daily, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University on why biodiversity is important:

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Time:
00:02:12
Perrings,C S. Naeem, F. Ahrestani, D. E. Bunker, P. Burkill, G. Canziani, T. Elmqvist, R. Ferrati, J. Fuhrman, F. Jaksic, Z. Kawabata, A. Kinzig, G. M. Mace, F. Milano, H. Mooney, A.-H. Prieur-Richard, J. Tschirhart, W. Weisser. 2010. Ecosystem Services for 2020. Science VOL 330:323-324.
References

Citation

Perrings,C S. Naeem, F. Ahrestani, D. E. Bunker, P. Burkill, G. Canziani, T. Elmqvist, R. Ferrati, J. Fuhrman, F. Jaksic, Z. Kawabata, A. Kinzig, G. M. Mace, F. Milano, H. Mooney, A.-H. Prieur-Richard, J. Tschirhart, W. Weisser. 2010. Ecosystem Services for 2020. Science VOL 330:323-324.

About Thomas Elmqvist:

Thomas Elmqvist is a professor in natural resource management. His research is focused on ecosystem services, land use change, natural disturbances and components of resilience including the role of social institutions.

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