Major report finds limited progress on biodiversity conservation

Sepember 15, 2020—The Global Biodiversity Outlook report issued this week by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) presents grim findings.  While progress has been made in some areas, biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, threats to nature are intensifying, and none of the targets the CBD set in Aichi, Japan a decade ago will be fully met.  The report notes that this threatens UN Sustainable Development Goals and undermines efforts to address climate change.  It says we’re at a crossroads.

There has been some progress on:

  • official protection for marine and terrestrial areas
  • public education on biodiversity and having biodiversity incorporated into planning and development processes
  • invasive alien species
  • sustainable agriculture and forestry
  • the generation, sharing and assessment of knowledge and data on biodiversity
  • conservation finance

Here are select excerpts (under our headers):

  • Threatened species:The number of extinctions of birds and mammals would likely have been at least two to four times higher without conservation actions over the past decade.However, species continue to move, on average, closer to extinction. Among well-assessed taxonomic groups, nearly one quarter (23.7%) of species are threatened with extinction unless the drivers of biodiversity loss are drastically reduced, with an estimated total of one million threatened species across all groups. Wild animal populations have fallen by more than two-thirds since 1970, and have continued to decline since 2010.
  • Habitat loss and degradation: The recent rate of deforestation is lower than that of the previous decade, but only by about one third, and deforestation may be accelerating again in some areas. Loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats remains high in forest and other biomes, especially in the most biodiversity-rich ecosystems in tropical regions. Wilderness areas and global wetlands continue to decline. Fragmentation of rivers remains a critical threat to freshwater biodiversity.
  • Fisheries: While there has been substantial progress … Many fisheries are still causing unsustainable levels of bycatch of non-target species and are damaging marine habitats.
  • Coral reefs: Multiple threats continue to affect coral reefs and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change and ocean acidification. Overfishing, nutrient pollution and coastal development compound the effects of coral bleaching. Corals have shown the most rapid increase in extinction risk of all assessed groups.
  • Protected areas:  The proportion of the planet’s land and oceans designated as protected areas is likely to reach the targets for 2020 and may be exceeded when other effective area-based conservation measures and future national commitments are taken into account. However, progress has been more modest in ensuring that protected areas safeguard the most important areas for biodiversity, are ecologically representative, connected to one another as well as to the wider landscape and seascape and are equitably and effectively managed.
  • Sustainable resource use: While natural resources are being used more efficiently, the aggregated demand for resources continues to increase, and therefore the impacts of their use remain well above safe ecological limits.
  • Harmful subsidies: Overall, little progress has been made over the past decade in eliminating, phasing out or reforming subsidies and other incentives potentially harmful to biodiversity, and in developing positive incentives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. Relatively few countries have taken steps even to identify incentives that harm biodiversity, and harmful subsidies far outweigh positive incentives in areas such as fisheries and the control of deforestation.
  • Pollution:  Despite increasing efforts to improve the use of fertilizers, nutrient levels continue to be detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.
  • Conservation finance:  There have been increases in domestic resources for biodiversity in some countries, with resources remaining broadly constant for others over the past decade. Financial resources available for biodiversity through international flows and official development assistance have roughly doubled. However, when all sources of biodiversity finance are taken into account, the increase in biodiversity financing would not appear to be sufficient in relation to needs. Moreover, these resources are swamped by support for activities harmful to biodiversity.

The report makes clear that it's not too late to “bend the curve” on biodiversity loss.  So, as we always say, onward!

Download the summary report in English

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