A million species threatened with extinction: IPBES

Researchers from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UH Mānoa), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), and other groups are finding out how forest conservation in Fiji can minimize the impact of human activities on coral reefs and their fish populations. | Credit: Stacy Jupiter/Wildlife Conservation Society
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Paris, May 6 Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the rate of species’ extinction is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) said on Monday.

It found that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

The IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body comprising more than 130 member governments.

The new report summary was approved at the seventh session of the IPBES Plenary meeting last week in Paris.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” he said.

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive report ever completed.

It is the first intergovernmental report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.

Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature.

It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to indigenous peoples and local communities.

The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20 per cent, mostly since 1900. More than 40 per cent of amphibian species, almost 33 per cent of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened.

The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10 per cent being threatened.

At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than nine per cent of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.

The report notes that since 1980 greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degree Celsius — with climate change already impacting nature from the level of ecosystems to that of genetics — impact is expected to increase over the coming decades.

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