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IPBES' 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Biodiversity and Nature’s Contributions Continue  Dangerous Decline, Scientists Warn

Human well-being at risk. Landmark reports highlight options to protect and restore nature and its vital contributions to people

Important aspects of the Global Assessment

Building upon earlier IPBES assessment reports, especially the recently-released Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment and the Regional Assessment Reports for Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe and Central Asia (March, 2018), the Global Assessment:

• Covers all land-based ecosystems (except Antarctica), inland water and the open oceans
• Evaluates changes over the past 50 years — and implications for our economies, livelihoods, food security and quality of life
• Explores impacts of trade and other global processes on biodiversity and ecosystem services
• Ranks the relative impacts of climate change, invasive species, pollution, sea and land use change and a range of other challenges to nature
• Identifies priority gaps in our available knowledge that will need to be filled
• Projects what biodiversity could look like in decades ahead under six future scenarios: Economic Optimism; Regional Competition; Global Sustainability; Business as Usual; Regional Sustainability and Reformed Markets
• Assesses policy, technology, governance, behaviour changes, options and pathways to reach global goals by looking at synergies and trade-offs between food production, water security, energy and infrastructure expansion, climate change mitigation, nature conservation and economic development

The economic value of the Americas’ land-based nature’s contributions to people is estimated to be more than US$24 trillion per year – equivalent to the region’s GDP, yet almost two-thirds – 65% – of these contributions are in decline, with 21% declining strongly. Human-induced climate change, which affects temperature, precipitation and the nature of extreme events, is increasingly driving biodiversity loss and the reduction of nature’s contributions to people, worsening the impact of habitat degradation, pollution, invasive species and the overexploitation of natural resources.”

According to the report, under a ‘business as usual’ scenario, climate change will be the fastest growing driver negatively impacting biodiversity by 2050 in the Americas, becoming comparable to the pressures imposed by land use change. On average today, the populations of species in an area are about 31% smaller than was the case at the time of European settlement. With the growing effects of climate change added to the other drivers, this loss is projected to reach 40% by 2050.

“Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and this is going to have severe consequences for economically marginalized populations. By 2100, climate change could also result in the loss of more than half of African bird and mammal species, a 20-30% decline in the productivity of Africa’s lakes and significant loss of African plant species.”

The report adds that approximately 500,000 square kilometres of African land is already estimated to have been degraded by overexploitation of natural resources, erosion, salinization and pollution, resulting in significant loss of nature’s contributions to people. Even greater pressure will be placed on the continent’s biodiversity as the current African population of 1.25 billion people is set to double to 2.5 billion by 2050. 

Asia-Pacific Forests, alpine ecosystems, inland freshwater and wetlands, as well as coastal systems are identified as the most threatened Asia-Pacific ecosystems. The increasing variety and abundance of invasive alien species is highlighted as one of the region’s most serious drivers of ecosystem change and biodiversity loss.

The experts of the Asia-Pacific assessment point to the value of ecosystem based approaches and identify, among others, lack of solid waste management, as well as air, water and land pollution as factors undermining gains in a number of the Aichi Targets and SDGs for many countries (e.g. extinction of plant and animal species due to deforestation, rising temperature and water pollution)

In the European Union, among assessments of the conservation status of species and habitat types of conservation interest, only 7% of marine species and 9% of marine habitat types show a ‘favourable conservation status’. Moreover 27% of species assessments and 66% of habitat types assessments show an ‘unfavourable conservation status’, with the others categorised as 'unknown'.

Abandonment of traditional land-use systems, and loss of associated indigenous and local knowledge and practices, has been widespread in Europe and Central Asia, the report finds. Production-based subsidies driving growth in agricultural, forestry and natural resource extraction sectors tend to exacerbate conflicting land-use issues, often impinging on available territory for traditional users. Maintenance of traditional land use and lifestyles in Europe and Central Asia is strongly related to institutional adequacy and economic viability.(Read the Summary for policymakers)

From the report:

  • Least developed countries, often rich in and more dependent upon natural resources, have suffered the highest land degradation, and have also experienced more conflict, and lower economic growth, and has contributed to environmental outmigrants numbering several million.
  • Currently, land degradation has reduced productivity in 23 per cent of the global terrestrial area, and between $235billion and $577 billion in annual global crop output is at risk as a result of pollinator loss.
  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.
  • The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year – having nearly doubled since 1980.
  • Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% were maximally sustainably fished, with just 7% harvested at levels lower than what can be sustainably fished.
  • Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.
  • Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 (591-595) - a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.
  • Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

By the numbers, trends, data, economic value of nature’s contributions to people, projections ( click here to find out more)

  • In Africa +/- 500,000: km2 of land is degraded due to factors such as deforestation, unsustainable agriculture, overgrazing, uncontrolled mining activities, invasive alien species and climate change, leading to soil erosion, salinization, pollution, and loss of vegetation or soil fertility
  • 25%: agricultural land in the EU affected by soil erosion (23% in Central Asia), which, combined with a decline in soil organic matter, might compromise food production
  • 20%: increase in erosion control on arable land in Western and Central Europe

Often described as the 'IPCC for Biodiversity', IPBES is the global science-policy forum tasked with providing the best available evidence to all decision-makers for people and nature.

The report will offer an integrated overview of where the world stands in relation to key international goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Paris Agreement on climate change. It examines causes of biodiversity and ecosystem change, the implications for people, policy options and likely future pathways over the next three decades if current trends continue, and other scenarios.

"The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come. Policies, efforts and actions - at every level - will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence. This is what the IPBES Global Assessment provides."

- Sir Robert Watson, IPBES Chair.