Decisions taken today may lead to differences in global forest cover of 10 million square kilometers — an area roughly the size of Canada or China — by 2030. Photo: B. Christensen/Azote

Biodiversity in the balance

Continuing biodiversity loss is predicted, but could be slowed.

As the world meets at the CBD COP10 summit in Nagoya to discuss ways to curb the loss of biodiversity (see seminar video at bottom of page), a new analysis foresees inevitable continuing decline of biodiversity during the 21st century. However, it also offers hope that it could be slowed if emerging policy choices are pursued.
 
The study, published in Science and an elaborated version of the third Global Biodiversity Outlook report, argues that fundamental changes are needed in society to avoid future risks of extinctions, declining species populations and large scale shifts in species distributions.
 
Unrealistic, but still glimmers of hope
The 23-member team behind the study, which also includes centre researcher Oonsie Biggs, says that the target of stopping biodiversity loss by 2020 “sounds good, but sadly isn't realistic".

- There is no question that business-as-usual development pathways will lead to catastrophic biodiversity loss. Even optimistic scenarios for this century consistently predict extinctions and shrinking populations of many species, says Oonsie Biggs.
 
However, the study also presents glimmers of hope: recent scenarios show that slowing climate change and deforestation can go hand-in-hand to reduce biodiversity loss provided there are “significant opportunities to intervene through better policies, such as those aimed at mitigating climate change without massive conversion of forests to biofuel plantations".

Action now, please
The economic importance of the world's natural assets might now be firmly on the political radar and cities are ready to take on their part of the responsibility, but the world is still sailing perilously close to the wind.

The study indicates the window of opportunity is closing rapidly, as differences in policy action taken now could either lead to an increase in global forest cover of about 15% in the best case or losses of more than 10% in the worst case by 2030.
 
The authors say that much hinges on the creation of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-like mechanism for biodiversity (to be called the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - IPBES).

They consider it “extremely important" for achieving commonly-agreed definitions and indicators for biodiversity and to inform decision making. 

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services could also play an important role in organizing the scientific co-operation to reduce uncertainty in biodiversity scenarios.
 
Trade-offs
The analysis also concludes that the difficulty of trade-offs between meeting human wants and needs and protecting biodiversity is likely to intensify.
 
- Much of what will happen to biodiversity in 21st century is not global extinctions, but major changes in the abundance of species and the composition of communities, says Oonsie Biggs.

Source: Pereira, Henrique M., Paul W. Leadley, Vânia Proença, Rob Alkemade, Jörn P. W. Scharlemann, Juan F. Fernandez-Manjarrés, Miguel B. Araújo, Patricia Balvanera, Reinette Biggs, William W. L. Cheung, Louise Chini, H. David Cooper, Eric L. Gilman, Sylvie Guénette, George C. Hurtt, Henry P. Huntington, Georgina M. Mace, Thierry Oberdorff, Carmen Revenga, Patrícia Rodrigues, Robert J. Scholes, Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Matt Walpole. 2010. Scenarios for Global Biodiversity in the 21st Century. Science.

References

Citation

Source: Pereira, Henrique M., Paul W. Leadley, Vânia Proença, Rob Alkemade, Jörn P. W. Scharlemann, Juan F. Fernandez-Manjarrés, Miguel B. Araújo, Patricia Balvanera, Reinette Biggs, William W. L. Cheung, Louise Chini, H. David Cooper, Eric L. Gilman, Sylvie Guénette, George C. Hurtt, Henry P. Huntington, Georgina M. Mace, Thierry Oberdorff, Carmen Revenga, Patrícia Rodrigues, Robert J. Scholes, Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Matt Walpole. 2010. Scenarios for Global Biodiversity in the 21st Century. Science.
Oonsie Biggs´ research focuses on large, abrupt, long-lasting changes in social-ecological systems that can have dramatic impacts on human economies and societies.

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