Global Biodiversity Outlook 2

Main Messages

Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 presents the status and trends of biodiversity and the progress being made towards achieving the 2010 Biodiversity Target.  The Outlook provides answers to the questions below:

What is the 2010 Biodiversity Target?

It is a target agreed by all Parties to the Convention in the Hague in 2002 “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.”

Heads of State and Government at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 committed themselves to the 2010 Biodiversity Target, Support for the commitment was reiterated at the Millennium Summit in New York in 2005.

Why is biodiversity loss a concern?

Healthy, biodiverse ecosystems provide the goods and services that humans need for their well-being.

Many of these goods and services are in decline, such as the provision of fresh water, marine fisheries, the cleansing of atmospheric pollutants, protection from natural hazards, pollination of our crops and pest control.

The loss of biological diversity destabilizes ecosystems and makes them more vulnerable to shocks and disturbances such as hurricanes and floods, which may further reduce the ability of environments to provide for human well-being.

These negative consequences are felt most harshly by the rural poor, who rely most directly on the services provided by local ecosystems for their well-being.  For this reason, biodiversity loss poses a significant barrier to meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

Biodiversity underpins many of our cultural and spiritual values.

What are the current trends in biodiversity loss?

Biodiversity is being lost at all levels:

Ecosystems across the planet have been impacted by biodiversity loss. 
Deforestation continues at an alarmingly high rate.  Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost annually.
Marine and coastal ecosystems have suffered due to human activities.  In the Caribbean, average hard coral cover declined from 50% to 10% in the last three decades.  35% of mangroves have been lost in the last two decades.

While protected areas cover some 13% of the world’s land area, these are unevenly distributed, with only 2/5 of the world’s ecoregions reaching the 10% benchmark. Only some half a percent of marine areas  are covered. And not all of these areas are effectively managed.

The average abundance of species is declining – 40% loss between 1970 and 2000.  Species present in rivers, lakes and marshlands have declined by 50%.  Declines are evident in amphibians, African mammals, birds in agricultural lands, corals and commonly harvested fish species.

Habitats, such as forests and river systems are becoming fragmented, affecting their ability to maintain biodiversity and deliver ecosystem services.

The intensification of fishing has led to a decline of large fish.  In the North Atlantic, their numbers have declined by 66% in the last 50 years.

The threats causing this biodiversity loss are generally increasing.

Nitrogen Fixation: Humans are contributing more nitrogen to ecosystems than all other natural processes combined.  This contributes to so-called “nutrient-loading”, leading to problems such as the creation of “dead zones” in marine systems, as observed in the Gulf of Mexico.

Invasive alien species:  The rate and risk of the introduction of alien invasive species, such as the zebra mussel or the water hyacinth, has increased significantly in the last few years, with significant economic costs.

Over-exploitation:  Unsustainable consumption continues, as indicated by our growing ecological footprint.  The demand for resources at the global level now exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth by some 20%

How is the Convention addressing biodiversity loss and how can its work be enhanced?

The 188 Parties to the Convention have created a comprehensive body of policies, tools and guidelines that address the threats to biodiversity at all levels.  The policies provide a sufficient framework to deal with the biodiversity crisis, but more work needs to be done:

The Convention is working with other international agreements and actors, but coordination can be improved, particularly with the international trade agenda,

More effort needs to be made to improve the capacity of all countries to implement the policies of the Convention.

More people and more groups need to understand the importance of biodiversity and the work of the Convention.  More effort needs to be made to engage key stakeholders to integrate biodiversity considerations into their work.

What challenges will the world need to overcome to meet the 2010 biodiversity target?

Unprecedented efforts will be needed to achieve the 2010 target.  However, with appropriate responses it is possible to achieve the 2010 target at national, regional and global levels.
The policies of the Convention are sufficient to meet the 2010 biodiversity target. They must be widely applied, in all relevant sectors, if conservation and sustainable use are to be achieved.

The food and agriculture sector contributes to pressure on biodiversity through land-use change, nutrient loading (nitrogen) and over-exploitation of wild resources.  A mixture of planning, regulations and incentive measures should be implemented to:
Improve agricultural efficiency
More effectively plan for the expansion of agriculture
Moderate the demand for meat by the more affluent sectors of society
halt over-fishing and other destructive fishing practices

Trade policies have a strong affect on economic development, including food and agricultural production.  For this reason, biodiversity concerns should be integrated with the trade agenda:
Proactive measures to protect biodiversity must accompany trade liberalization. In the long run, the removal of subsidies for fisheries and agriculture has the potential to benefit biodiversity; in the short term, trade liberalization will accelerate its loss if not well-planned.

Biodiversity considerations must be integrated into any poverty reduction strategies in order to ensure their sustainability.

Biodiversity will be better protected through actions that are justified on their economic merits.  The development of tools for the valuation of biodiversity is a priority.

Which actions are needed to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target?

At the International level:
the Conference of the Parties needs to provide enhanced support to Parties;
an international regime on access and benefit sharing should be completed.

At the National level Parties must:
develop and implement, across sectors, comprehensive national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) and include clear national targets for 2010;
mobilize sufficient resources to achieve the above;
report on progress on their commitment to the 2010 biodiversity target.

Individuals have a role and must:
demand action from governments:
be aware of the impact that their choices and consumption patterns have on the environment.