More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than one-third of all marine mammals face extinction.
Thirty-three per cent of marine stocks (2015) are being harvested at unsustainable levels and 55% of the ocean area is covered by industrial fishing.
The World Wildlife Fund describes the ‘IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services’ as a “wake-up call” to policy makers and businesses alike to take ‘decisive action’.
“A new deal on nature and people by 2020 is urgently needed,” warns Rebecca Shaw, WWF chief scientist.
The report offers “irrefutable evidence of not only the unprecedented decline of nature but its risk to human lives and prosperity,” she added.
“How can we create a future in which both people and nature can thrive?” asks Sir David Attenborough.
“This is the biggest question of our times. In the next few decades we need to do something unprecedented: Achieve a sustainable existence on Earth. But how do we do it?
“We can start by understanding how we got to this point.”
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and the rate of species extinction is accelerating with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns the landmark report.
“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security health and quality of life worldwide,” remarked IPBES chair, Sir Robert Watson.
But he added it was not too late to make a difference, “if we start now at every level from local to global”.
Through “transformative change”, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably, he said.
“By transformative change we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
Professor Sandra Díaz (Argentina) co-chair of the Report said biodiversity and nature were humanity’s “most important life-supporting safety net. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking-point.”
Described as ‘the most comprehensive ever completed, the report was compiled by 145 ‘expert authors’ from 50 countries and a further 310 ‘contributing authors, over the past three years.
The Report assesses changes over the past five decades, and gives a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature.
Based on a systematic review of over 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report draws (for the first time at his scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, and particularly addresses issues relevant to indigenous peoples and local communities.
The report notes in descending order the five direct drivers of change with the largest relative global impacts to date: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms, climate change; pollution, and invasive alien species.
Since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7C.
Despite progress to conserve nature and implement policies, global goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability ‘cannot be met by current trajectories’.
Goals for 2030 and beyond ‘may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors’ the report warns.
Oceans and Fishing
• 33%: marine fish stocks in 2015 being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% are maximally sustainably fished; 7% are underfished
• >55%: ocean area covered by industrial fishing
• 3-10%: projected decrease in ocean net primary production due to climate change alone by the end of the century
• 3-25%: projected decrease in fish biomass by the end of the century in low and high climate warming scenarios, respectively
• >90%: proportion of the global commercial fishers accounted for by small scale fisheries (over 30 million people) – representing nearly 50% of global fish catch
• Up to 33%: estimated share in 2011 of world’s reported fish catch that is illegal, unreported or unregulated
• >10%: decrease per decade in the extent of seagrass meadows from 1970-2000
• +/-50%: live coral cover of reefs lost since 1870s
• 100-300 million: people in coastal areas at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection
• 400: low oxygen (hypoxic) coastal ecosystem ‘dead zones’ caused by fertilizers, affecting >245,000 km2
• 29%: average reduction in the extinction risk for mammals and birds in 109 countries thanks to conservation investments from 1996 to 2008; the extinction risk of birds, mammals and amphibians would have been at least 20% greater without conservation action in recent decade
• >107: highly threatened birds, mammals and reptiles estimated to have benefitted from the eradication of invasive mammals on islands
• 5.6 gigatons: annual CO2 emissions sequestered in marine and terrestrial ecosystems – equivalent to 60% of global fossil fuel emission
• 25%: average proportion of species threatened with extinction across terrestrial, freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups that have been studied in sufficient detail
• Almost 33%: reef forming corals, sharks and shark relatives, and >33% marine mammals threatened with extinction
• >85%: of wetlands present in 1700 had been lost by 2000 – loss of wetlands is currently three times faster, in percentage terms, than forest loss.