Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
Target 5: By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.
Nearly all Parties report that habitat loss is the most important factor driving biodiversity loss. Largely undisturbed or primary habitat is a particular priority for reducing this loss. Degradation, which reduces the capacity of ecosystems to provide goods and services, is similarly important. Habitat fragmentation, though more difficult to quantify at a global level, is a related pressure driving biodiversity loss. While economic, demographic and social pressures are likely to mean continued habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, particularly due to land use change beyond 2020, the rate of change needs to be substantially reduced. While for some ecosystems it may be possible to bring the rate of habitat loss close to zero by 2020, for others a more realistic goal is to halve the rate of loss. Significantly reducing habitat degradation and fragmentation will also be required in order to ensure that those habitats which remain are capable of supporting biodiversity. Ultimately, there must be limits to the conversion or degradation of natural habitats. This is particularly the case for some ecosystems, where continued loss risks passing “tipping points” that could lead to large scale negative effects on human well being. 9
The target refers to rate of loss, and should be regarded as a step towards halting the loss of natural habitats. Further it should be noted that the use of net rather than gross rates of loss could obscure the loss of mature ecosystems as a result of restoration. Whilst restoration activities can restore many of the attributes of primary ecosystems, they cannot be restored completely in the short to medium term. The emphasis of this target should be on preventing the loss of high-biodiversity value habitats, such as primary forests and many wetlands. Recent evidence suggests that the global rate of deforestation is already decreasing. Implementation:
Reduction in the loss and degradation of natural habitats through land use change could be achieved through improvements in production efficiency and land use planning, and enhanced mechanisms for natural resource governance combined with recognition of the economic and social value of ecosystem services provided by natural habitats.12
In particular, catchment value (water provision), erosion control, the value of carbon sequestration by forests and wetlands, and other ecosystem services (such as denitrification by wetlands) provide contemporary incentives for reducing the net loss of these habitats, and reversing their decline. Taking a landscape-wide perspective to land use planning offers a useful way to integrate global level ecosystem services (e.g., climate change mitigation) with local level ones (e.g., biodiversity conservation, water supply and quality, timber and non-timber forest products). The programmes of work on forest, marine and coastal, inland water and dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity and the Convention’s work on sustainable use are particularly relevant to this target. An initiative that could be further built upon in working towards this goal relates to the signing, by Ministers of 68 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity during the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, of WWF’s call to stop net deforestation by 2020. Indicators and baseline information:
In order to determine if the rate of habitat loss has been reduced, there will be a need to establish a baseline against which to gauge progress towards this goal. Relevant indicators include: trends in the extent of selected biomes, ecosystems, and habitats (forest area; mangroves); trends in the abundance and distribution of selected species and the connectivity/fragmentation of ecosystems. Reasonably good data are available for some habitats, such as forests, while for other habitats improvements in data would be needed. The Degradation Initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests has identified, and is further developing, common indicators for monitoring and assessing forest degradation.
Possible milestones for this target include:
- By 2012, common indicators for monitoring and assessing forest degradation, biomass, forest health, and forest goods have been agreed and widely used;
- By 2014, national legislation and land use plans or zonation maps have been reviewed and updated in relation to national targets for the maintenance of natural habitats, and spatial planning tools are made available for wide use;
- By 2014, additional measures are taken, as necessary, including for example for the enhancement of land tenure, the enhancement of law enforcement and the use of incentive measures.
Rockstrom, J, et al. (2009). A safe operating space for humanity. Nature, 461(7263), 472-475. 10
Assessment of the Risk of Amazon Dieback. World Bank Climate and clean energy initiative. January 2010. 11
Leadley, P, Pereira, HM, Alkemade, R, Fernandez-Manjarrés, JF, Proença, V, Scharlemann, JPW, Walpole, MJ (2010) Biodiversity Scenarios: Projections of 21st century change in biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal. Technical Series no. 50. 12
Nelson, E, et al (2009). Modelling multiple ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, commodity production, and tradeoffs at landscape scales. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 2009; 7(1): 4–11.