Reports warn of global biodiversity decline and land degradation

Biodiversity continues to decline across the globe, threatening livelihoods, food security, economies and quality of life, according to four regional assessments released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

The reports, which cover the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Europe/Central Asia, have been developed by more than 550 academics over the past three years, finding that biodiversity and nature’s capacity to support populations was in decline in all regions.

Pressures include habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species, and climate change.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” Mr Watson said.

“Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life.”

Findings in the Asia-Pacific region include:

  • there’ll be no exportable fish stocks left by 2048 if current practices continue

  • up to 90 per cent of corals will experience severe degradation by 2050

  • a 45 per cent anticipated loss of habitats and species by 2050 could occur under BAU.

The report, however, did note there were many ways to protect biodiversity, including better application of science and technology, empowerment of local communities in decision making, integrating biodiversity conservation into other key sectors, scenario planning sensitive to economic and cultural diversity, private sector partnerships in financing biodiversity protection, and better cross-border regional collaboration.


The IPBES has also released a report into world-wide land degradation, which it describes as 'critical' and undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people.

Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive global direct driver of land degradation, causing significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services – food security, water purification, the provision of energy and other contributions of nature essential to people. This has reached ‘critical’ levels in many parts of the world, the report says.

“With negative impacts on the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction,” said Prof. Robert Scholes (South Africa), co-chair of the assessment with Dr. Luca Montanarella (Italy).

“Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being.”

“Wetlands have been particularly hard hit,” said Dr. Montanarella. “We have seen losses of 87% in wetland areas since the start of the modern era – with 54% lost since 1900.”

According to the authors, land degradation manifests in many ways: land abandonment, declining populations of wild species, loss of soil and soil health, rangelands and fresh water, as well as deforestation.

Underlying drivers of land degradation, says the report, are the high-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies. High and rising per capita consumption, amplified by continued population growth in many parts of the world, can drive unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, natural resource and mineral extraction, and urbanization – typically leading to greater levels of land degradation.

By 2014, more than 1.5 billion hectares of natural ecosystems had been converted to croplands. Less than 25% of the Earth’s land surface has escaped substantial impacts of human activity – and by 2050, the IPBES experts estimate this will have fallen to less than 10%.

Further information on the Reports is available at

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