Latest IBPES report: There is still time to act

On Monday, May 6th, the IPBES (UN Expert Group on Biodiversity), issued the alert in a historic report. This is the most comprehensive document to date and builds on the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and introduces new ways to evaluate evidence. In this document, we learn that 3/4 of the terrestrial environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly modified by human action. On average, these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas owned or managed by indigenous peoples and local populations. About 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, representing 1 in 8 species. Sir Robert Watson, President of IPBES, stresses that « it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global »


A historical and complete report


No less than 145 experts from 50 countries have produced this report over the last three years. Additional contributions were also made by 310 other experts. For the first time on such a scale, the report also draws on indigenous and local knowledge. In fact, it evaluates the changes that have taken place over the last fifty years and highlights the relationship between the trajectories of economic development and their impact on nature. To do this, about 15,000 scientific references and government sources were used. The million endangered plant and animal species in question would be even more so in the coming decades. Something that has never have happened in the history of humanity. « Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed», adds the Professor Josef Settele. The authors of the evaluation, for the first time on such a large scale based on an in-depth analysis of the available data, gave the five direct drivers of change that affect nature and have the greatest impact worldwide. We discover then, in descending order, they are: 1- Changes in land and sea use; 2 – The direct exploitation of some; organizations; 3 – Climate change; 4 – Pollution; 5 – Invasive alien species. Despite the progress in terms of implementation for nature conservation and the implementation of policies in its favor, the report also highlights the fact that current trajectories do not achieve the global conservation and conservation goals. sustainable exploitation of nature. The goals for 2030 and beyond could only be achieved through transformative change in the fields of politics, technology, the economy and society.


A major impact on marine biodiversity

Marine biodiversity is particularly affected by the announced decline. The report states that 267 species are concerned. Nearly 33% of coral reefs, sharks and related species, and more than 1/3 of marine mammals are threatened. As for the fishery, 33% of the marine fish stocks in 2015 were exploited at a biologically unsustainable level, 60% were exploited at maximum and 7% were under exploited. Pollution is a major problem, indeed, « 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. », indicates the IPBES. It should also be noted that plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980. Let’s not forget that at least 1,800 billion plastics waste pollutes the oceans. Many organizations and associations try to struggle or at least understand where the plastic flows come from (as in the new Tara Oceans expedition, launched May 23) to find out where to act. The IPBES report also presents a list of possible actions that will best support sustainable development. This concerns agriculture, freshwater ecosystems, urban areas and marine ecosystems. For the latter, we find « ecosystem approaches to fisheries management; territory planning; effective quotas; protected marine areas; protection and management of key areas of marine biodiversity; the reduction of runoff pollution in the oceans and close collaboration with producers and consumers ». As for sharks, the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) released a report a few months ago, which is also alarming. This concerned the conservation status of sharks. We learned that 17 of the 58 species studied are now classified as at risk of extinction. It is good to remember the figure of 100 million, which corresponds to the number of sharks killed per year and for which it is necessary to act, given their crucial importance as a super predator.

An example of success


Thanks to the measures taken and to the alliance of several knowledges, endangered species have been saved. This is particularly the case of pirarucu (Arapaima gigas). This giant fish is the largest freshwater fish. He populates the waters of Amazonia. The pirarucu can measure up to 3 meters long and weigh up to 200 kg. To this end, a scientific program of the Mamirauá Institute (a social organization created and supervised by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication, which celebrates 20 years of operation this year) was carried out in symbiosis with local people. If this species was an integral part of the riparian diet, there was a dangerous decline due to the intensification of activity in the forest, the technological progress of the boats and the production of ice, which offered a longer storage of fish. The pirarucu has a complex respiratory system, which forces it to rise to the surface to breathe every 20 minutes. If it is practical in the context of the fishery, it has also been in the context of the preservation program. Indeed, it is in this way that they could be counted by a group of fishermen, created for the occasion. Sustainable fishing, based on quotas based on the number of fish recorded the previous year, has been applied in reserve areas. Following this establishment, the fish population has increased from 2507 specimens in 1999 to 190,523 in 2018. The breeding season has been respected and fishing allowed only from July to November. In addition to having played an indispensable role in the survival of the species, this management has an interesting economic aspect since it brought 1.56 million reais (350,000 €) to the regions of Miramauá and Amanã. The sum was then divided among more than 700 fishermen. For Emiliano Ramalho, technical and scientific director of the Mamirauá Institute, this story is a good summary of the alliance between the different types of knowledge: « The one between a searcher coming from outside to help a threatened species and the traditional knowledge of the local fishermen ». It is also worth noting that the extinction risk of mammals and birds in 109 countries has been reduced by 29% (average) thanks to the conservation investments made from 1996 to 2008. The risk of extinction of birds, mammals and amphibians would have been at least 20% without this conservation action in recent decades. Also, let’s not forget that about 16,000 new species are discovered each year!


There is still time to act

According to Sir Robert Watson, « We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. ». Only, it is not too late to act, provided that a change called « transformative » radically takes place. This, from local to global. « Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values », He says. He pursues : « The member States of IPBES Plenary have now acknowledged that, by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good ». The report presents a number of examples of actions for sustainable development and the way to implement them in areas such as marine ecosystems, urban areas, energy, forestry, freshwater ecosystems, finance … To create a sustainable global economy, the evolution of global financial and economic systems has been  identified as a « key element of more sustainable future policies ». Executive Secretary of IPBES, Dr Anne Larigauderie announced : «IPBES presents the authoritative science, knowledge and the policy options to decisionmakers for their consideration ».