World fails to meet biodiversity loss targets


Lynette Strauss


The Global Biodiversity Outlook is published every four years and is the product of close collaboration between the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

The third edition (GBO-3), released in May this year and available for download at http://gbo3.cbd.int, demonstrates that the target set by world governments in 2002, "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level," has not been met. The consequences will be severe if we do not quickly correct this state of affairs. The services and goods that nature provides such as the food we eat, the water we drink and the air that we breathe, will be lost if the current rate of biodiversity loss continues, with drastic impacts on livelihoods, human health, economies and our way of life.

GBO-3 will be a key to discussions by world leaders and heads of state at a special high level segment of the United Nations General Assembly on 22 September 2010. It will also most likely form the basis for discussions on the strategic plan being considered for the next decade of the CBD, to be agreed at the 10th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010.

Some sobering facts on biodiversity loss as extracted from the GBO-3:

On average, assessed species risk are moving closer to extinction. Amphibians face the greatest risk, while corals are deteriorating most rapidly in status. Nearly a quarter of plants are threatened with extinction.

The wild vertebrate population fell by an average of 31 percent globally between 1970 and 2006. Farmland bird populations in Europe have declined by on average 50 percent since 1980. Of the 1 200 waterbird populations with known trends, 44 percent are in decline.

While significant progress has been made in slowing the rate of loss for tropical forests and mangroves in some regions, freshwater wetlands, sea ice habitats, salt marshes, coral reefs, seagrass beds and shellfish reefs are all showing serious declines in extent and integrity.

Crop and livestock genetic diversity in agricultural systems is still declining.

By 1985 between 56 and 65 percent of inland water systems suitable for use in intensive agriculture in Europe and North America had been drained. Figures for Asia and South America were 27 percent and 6 percent respectively.

73 percent of marshes in northern Greece have been drained since 1930.

60 percent of the original wetland area of Spain has been lost.

Iraq's Mesopotamian marshes lost more than 90 percent of their original extent between the 1970s and 2002, following a massive and systematic drainage project. Following the fall of the former Iraqi regime in 2003 many drainage structures have been dismantled, and the marshes were reflooded to approximately 58 percent of their former extent by the end of 2006, with a significant recovery of marsh vegetation.

About 80 percent of the world marine fish stocks for which assessment information is available are fully exploited or overexploited.

The economic value of biodiversity:

The southern Africa tourism industry was estimated to be worth US$ 3.6 billion in 2000. This is mostly through wildlife viewing, and shows the importance of protecting areas capable of sustaining wildlife.

Insects that carry pollen between crops are worth an estimated US$ 200 billion per year to the global food economy. Yet these insects are threatened by pesticides, habitat loss and invasive species, amongst others.

Water catchment services to New Zealand's Otago region provided by tussock grass habitats in the 22 000 hectare Te Papanui Conservation Park are valued at more than US$95 million, based on the cost of providing water by other means.

The Muthurajawela Marsh, a coastal wetland located in a densely populated area of Northern Sri Lanka, is estimated to be worth US$150 per hectare for its services related to agriculture, fishing and firewood, US$1,907 per hectare for preventing flood damage, and US$654 per hectare for industrial and domestic waste-water treatment.

Southern Africa's Okavango Delta generates about US$32 million per year to local households in Botswana through use of its natural resources, sales and income from the tourism industry.

The total economic output of activities associated with the delta is estimated at more than US$145 million, or some 2.6 percent of Botswana's gross national product.



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