Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

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The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is a report released on 6 May 2019 by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, on the global state of biodiversity. The report found that, due to human impact on the environment in the past half-century, the Earth's biodiversity has suffered a catastrophic decline unprecedented in human history. [1] An estimated 82 percent of wild mammal biomass has been lost, while 40 percent of amphibians, almost a third of reef-building corals, more than a third of marine mammals, and 10 percent of all insects are threatened with extinction.

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

Biodiversity Variety and variability of life forms

Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richest in the tropics. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 percent of the world's species. Marine biodiversity is usually highest along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans. There are latitudinal gradients in species diversity. Biodiversity generally tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time, but will be likely to slow in the future.

Contents

Background

In 2010 a resolution by the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly urged the United Nations Environment Programme to convene a plenary meeting to establish an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). [2] [3] In 2013 an initial conceptual framework was adopted for the prospective IPBES plenary. [3]

The Sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 14 September 2010.

United Nations General Assembly Principal organ of the United Nations

The United Nations General Assembly is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN), the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN. Its powers are to oversee the budget of the UN, appoint the non-permanent members to the Security Council, appoint the Secretary-General of the United Nations, receive reports from other parts of the UN, and make recommendations in the form of General Assembly Resolutions. It has also established numerous subsidiary organs.

United Nations Environment Programme organization

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an agency of the United Nations, coordinates the organization's environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies; however, international talks on specialized issues, such as addressing climate change or combating desertification, are overseen by other UN organizations, like the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. UNEP's activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy. It has played a significant role in developing international environmental conventions, promoting environmental science and information and illustrating the way those can be implemented in conjunction with policy, working on the development and implementation of policy with national governments, regional institutions in conjunction with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.

From 29 April to 4 May 2019, representatives of the 132 IPBES members met in Paris, France, to receive the IPBES's full report and adopted a summary of it for policymakers. On 6 May 2019, the 40-page summary was released. [4] [5]

Objective and scope

The Global Assessment Report is a global-level assessment of changes in Earth's biodiversity that have occurred over the past 50 years. It draws an extensive picture of economic development and its effects on nature in that period. The Report is a collaborative effort by 145 authors from 50 countries, [6] produced over a three-year period and supported by some 310 authors' contributions. [7] The Global Assessment Report comprises some 1,700 pages [6] evaluating over 15,000 scientific publications and reports from indigenous peoples. [8] The Report's authors are predominantly natural scientists, one-third are social scientists, and about ten percent are interdisciplinary workers. [6]

Economic development is the process in which a nation is being improved in the sector of the economic, political, and social well-being of its people. The term has been used frequently by economists, politicians, and others in the 20th and 21st centuries. The concept, however, has been in existence in the West for centuries. "Modernization, "westernization", and especially "industrialization" are other terms often used while discussing economic development. Economic development has a direct relationship with the environment and environmental issues. Economic development is very often confused with industrial development, even in some academic sources.

Indigenous peoples Ethnic group descended from and identified with the original inhabitants of a given region

Indigenous peoples, also known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples or native peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original settlers of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. Groups are usually described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with a given region. Not all indigenous peoples share this characteristic, as many have adopted substantial elements of a colonizing culture, such as dress, religion or language. Indigenous peoples may be settled in a given region (sedentary) or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but they are generally historically associated with a specific territory on which they depend. Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate zone and continent of the world.

The IPBES Report—an analog to reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report—is intended to form a scientific basis for informed political and societal decisions on biodiversity policies. [9] It is the first United Nations report on the global state of biodiversity since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2005. [10]

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific intergovernmental body

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the fifth in a series of such reports. The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information concerning climate change, its potential effects and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) is a major assessment of the human impact on the environment, called for by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000, launched in 2001 and published in 2005 with more than $14 million of grants. It popularized the term ecosystem services, the benefits gained by humans from ecosystems.

Overview

"Finding out that 1 million species face extinction without radical corrective changes in human behavior is akin to finding out you have a fatal disease. One day you have a thousand problems; the next, you have just one. Nothing in today’s headlines compares to the catastrophic potential posed by climate change and the decimating effects of careless consumerism around the globe."

Kathleen Parker for The Washington Post , May 7, 2019 [11]

<i>The Washington Post</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper published in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post is a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., with a particular emphasis on national politics and the federal government. It has the largest circulation in the Washington metropolitan area. Its slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" began appearing on its masthead in 2017. Daily broadsheet editions are printed for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

The Report examined the rate of decline in biodiversity and found that the adverse effects of human activities on the world's species is "unprecedented in human history": [12] one million species, including 40 percent of amphibians, almost a third of reef-building corals, more than a third of marine mammals, and 10 percent of all insects are threatened with extinction. [13]

Since the 16th century, at least 680 species of vertebrates have become extinct. [14] By 2016, among mammals, more than nine percent of livestock breeds were extinct, and another 1,000 breeds are threatened with extinction. [15] The authors have coined the expression "dead species walking" for the more than 500,000 species that are not yet extinct but, due to changes in, or reduction of, their habitats, have no chance of long-term survival. [16]

A 2002 satellite image showing deforestation due to palm oil farming in Malaysian Borneo. Malayasia iko 2002169.jpg
A 2002 satellite image showing deforestation due to palm oil farming in Malaysian Borneo.

According to the Report, the threat to species diversity is human-caused. [17] The main cause is the human land requirement, which deprives other species of their habitats. [8] In the past 50 years, the world's human population has doubled [18] and biodiversity has suffered a catastrophic decline. [19] Most notably, tropical forests have been cleared for cattle pastures in South America and for oil-palm plantations in Southeast Asia. [20] Some 32 million hectares (79 million acres) of tropical rainforest were destroyed between 2010 and 2015, compared to the 100 million hectares (250 million acres) lost in the latter two decades of the 20th century. Already 85 percent of the world's wetlands have been lost. [21]

The total biomass of wild mammals has decreased by 82 percent, while humans and their farm animals now make up 96 percent of all mammalian biomass on Earth. [8] Additionally, since 1992 the land requirement for human settlements has more than doubled worldwide; [22] and humanity has rendered 23 percent of Earth's land ecologically degraded and no longer usable. [21] Industrial farming is considered to be one of the major contributors to this decline. [23] Around 25% of the planet's ice-free land is being used to rear cattle for human consumption. [8]

In the oceans, overfishing is a major cause of species loss. [14] Some 300–400 million metric tons (660–880 billion lb) of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes per year enter the water cycle from industrial facilities. [8] [24] Since the 19th century, the world's coral reefs have been reduced by half. [21]

Socioeconomic consequences include threatened loss of food production, due to loss of pollinator insects, valued at between $235 and $577 billion a year; and anticipated loss of the livelihoods of up to 300 million people, due to loss of coastal areas such as mangrove forests. [21]

Conclusions

The Report warned that society should not fixate on economic growth, and that countries should "base their economies on an understanding that nature is the foundation for development." [6] [25] The Report called on countries to begin focusing on "restoring habitats, growing food on less land, stopping illegal logging and fishing, protecting marine areas, and stopping the flow of heavy metals and wastewater into the environment." [25] It also suggests that countries reduce their subsidies to industries that are harmful to nature, and increase subsidies and funding to environmentally beneficial programs. [26] Additionally, it highlighted needed shifts in individual behaviors, such as reducing meat consumption. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Extinction event Widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth

An extinction event is a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth. Such an event is identified by a sharp change in the diversity and abundance of multicellular organisms. It occurs when the rate of extinction increases with respect to the rate of speciation. Estimates of the number of major mass extinctions in the last 540 million years range from as few as five to more than twenty. These differences stem from the threshold chosen for describing an extinction event as "major", and the data chosen to measure past diversity.

Holocene extinction Extinction event during the current Holocene geological epoch

The Holocene extinction, otherwise referred to as the Sixth extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is a current event, and is one of the most significant extinction events in the history of the Earth. This ongoing extinction of species coincides with the present Holocene epoch, and is a result of human activity. This large number of extinctions spans numerous families of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions are thought to be undocumented, as the species are undiscovered at the time of their extinction, or no one has yet discovered their extinction. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates. The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services published by IPBES in 2019 posits that roughly one million species of plants and animals face extinction caused by anthropogenic impacts.

Extinction Termination of a taxon by the death of the last member

In biology, extinction is the termination of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point. Because a species' potential range may be very large, determining this moment is difficult, and is usually done retrospectively. This difficulty leads to phenomena such as Lazarus taxa, where a species presumed extinct abruptly "reappears" after a period of apparent absence.

Conservation biology the study of threats to biological diversity

Conservation biology is the management of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.

Habitat destruction is the process by which natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed reducing biodiversity. Habitat destruction by human activity is mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural resources for industrial production and urbanization. Clearing habitats for agriculture is the principal cause of habitat destruction. Other important causes of habitat destruction include mining, logging, trawling, and urban sprawl. Habitat destruction is currently ranked as the primary cause of species extinction worldwide. It is a process of natural environmental change that may be caused by habitat fragmentation, geological processes, climate change or by human activities such as the introduction of invasive species, ecosystem nutrient depletion, and other human activities.

Human impact on the environment human impacts on environment

Human impact on the environment or anthropogenic impact on the environment includes changes to biophysical environments and ecosystems, biodiversity, and natural resources caused directly or indirectly by humans, including global warming, environmental degradation, mass extinction and biodiversity loss, ecological crisis, and ecological collapse. Modifying the environment to fit the needs of society is causing severe effects, which become worse as the problem of human overpopulation continues. Some human activities that cause damage to the environment on a global scale include human reproduction, overconsumption, overexploitation, pollution, and deforestation, to name but a few. Some of the problems, including global warming and biodiversity loss pose an existential risk to the human race, and overpopulation causes those problems.

Insect biodiversity

Insect biodiversity accounts for a large proportion of all biodiversity on the planet—over half of the estimated 1.5 million organism species described are classified as insects.

The Living Planet Index (LPI) is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity, based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) manages the index in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) a.k.a. the World Wildlife Federation.

Global biodiversity

Global biodiversity is the measure of biodiversity on planet Earth and is defined as the total variability of life forms. More than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 2 million to 1012, of which about 1.74 million have been databased thus far and over 80 percent have not yet been described. More recently, in May 2016, scientists reported that 1 trillion species are estimated to be on Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one percent described. The total amount of DNA base pairs on Earth, as a possible approximation of global biodiversity, is estimated at 5.0 x 1037, and weighs 50 billion tonnes. In comparison, the total mass of the biosphere has been estimated to be as much as 4 TtC (trillion tons of carbon).

Defaunation is the global, local or functional extinction of animal populations or species from ecological communities. The growth of the human population, combined with advances in harvesting technologies, has led to more intense and efficient exploitation of the environment. This has resulted in the depletion of large vertebrates from ecological communities, creating what has been termed "empty forest". Defaunation differs from extinction; it includes both the disappearance of species and declines in abundance. Defaunation effects were first implied at the Symposium of Plant-Animal Interactions at the University of Campinas, Brazil in 1988 in the context of neotropical forests. Since then, the term has gained broader usage in conservation biology as a global phenomenon.

The Future of Marine Animal Populations (FMAP) project was one of the core projects of the international Census of Marine Life (2000–2010). FMAP's mission was to describe and synthesize globally changing patterns of species abundance, distribution, and diversity, and to model the effects of fishing, climate change and other key variables on those patterns. This work was done across ocean realms and with an emphasis on understanding past changes and predicting future scenarios.

Environmental issue harmful effects of human activitity on the biophysical environment

Environmental issues are harmful effects of human activity on the biophysical environment. Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on individual, organizational or governmental levels, for the benefit of both the environment and humans. Environmentalism, a social and environmental movement, addresses environmental issues through advocacy, education and activism.

Climate change and ecosystems

This article is about climate change and ecosystems. Future climate change is expected to affect particular ecosystems, including tundra, mangroves, coral reefs, and caves.

At the global scale sustainability and environmental management involves managing the oceans, freshwater systems, land and atmosphere, according to sustainability principles.

<i>The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History</i> popular science book

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is a 2014 non-fiction book written by Elizabeth Kolbert and published by Henry Holt and Company. The book argues that the Earth is in the midst of a modern, man-made, sixth extinction. In the book, Kolbert chronicles previous mass extinction events, and compares them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions during our present time. She also describes specific species extinguished by humans, as well as the ecologies surrounding prehistoric and near-present extinction events. The author received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for the book in 2015.

Biodiversity loss is the extinction of species worldwide, and also the local reduction or loss of species in a certain habitat.

K.N. Ninan

Karachepone N. Ninan is an ecological economist. Dr. Ninan was born in Nairobi, Kenya where he had his early school education. Thereafter he relocated to India where he continued his high school and college education.

Decline in insect populations

Several studies report what appears to be a substantial decline in insect populations. Some of the insects most affected include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies and damselflies. Anecdotal evidence has been offered of much greater apparent abundance of insects in the 20th century; recollections of the windscreen phenomenon are an example.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 was conceived as a means of highlighting the need among nations to drastically increase efforts to restore degraded and destroyed ecosystems to combat climate change, and enhance biodiversity, food security, and water supply.

References

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