Biodiversity continues to plummet across the globe, threatening livelihoods, food security, economies and quality of life, according to four regional assessments released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

“The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead,” IPBES chair Robert Watson said.

The reports, which cover the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Europe/Central Asia, have been developed by more than 550 academics over the past three years, finding that biodiversity and nature’s capacity to support populations was in decline in all regions.

Drivers include habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species, and climate change.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” Mr Watson said.

“Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, a number of confronting findings were uncovered, including:

there’ll be no exportable fish stocks left by 2048 if current practices continue

  • up to 90 per cent of corals will experience severe degradation by 2050
  • a 45 per cent anticipated loss of habitats and species by 2050 could occur under BAU

“The region’s biodiversity faces unprecedented threats, from extreme weather events and sea level rise, to invasive alien species, agricultural intensification and increasing waste and pollution,” co-chair of the Asia-Pacific assessment Dr Madhav Karki said.

The report, however, did note there were many ways to protect biodiversity, including better application of science and technology, empowerment of local communities in decision making, integrating biodiversity conservation into other key sectors, scenario planning sensitive to economic and cultural diversity, private sector partnerships in financing biodiversity protection, and better cross-border regional collaboration.

There were also some wins in the region, including growth of 0.3 per cent in terrestrial protected areas and 13.8 per cent in marine protected areas.

UN Environment executive director Erik Solheim said not paying attention to biodiversity threatened reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Sustainable Development Goals aim to ‘leave no one behind’,” he said.

“If we don’t protect and value biodiversity, we will never achieve this goal. When we erode biodiversity, we impact food, water, forests and livelihoods.”

UN Development Programme administrator Achim Steiner said the report and recommendations could help set a better path.

“Tools like these four regional assessments provide scientific evidence for better decision making and a path we can take forward to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and harness nature’s power for our collective sustainable future,” Mr Steiner said.

“The world has lost over 130 million hectares of rainforests since 1990 and we lose dozens of species every day, pushing the Earth’s ecological system to its limit. Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are not only the foundation for our life on Earth, but critical to the livelihoods and wellbeing of people everywhere.”

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