Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences | JIRCAS

Summary of the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

2019-05-10

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)has published a summary of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for policy makers. The report includes a comprehensive analysis of the impact of economic development over the past 50 years on natural resources and ecosystems and possible scenarios in the coming decades, based on nearly 15,000 references including scientific papers and government information prepared by experts from 50 countries. The key aspects covered by the report are as follows:

  • An unprecedented one million out of the eight million species of plants and animals on earth could become extinct within the next few decades.
  • he average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has declined by at least 20% since 1900. More than 40% of amphibians, almost 33% of coral reefs, more than 30% of marine mammals, and 10% of insects are threatened with extinction. At least 680 vertebrate species have become extinct since the 16th century and more than 9% of livestock breeds used for food and agriculture have been extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds are currently threatened.
  • The decline in biodiversity is caused by human activities in the following order of descending impact: (1) changes in land and sea use, (2) direct exploitation of organisms, (3) climate change, (4) pollution and (5) Invasive alien species. With the doubling of greenhouse gas emissions since 1980 and raising average temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius, the impact of climate change is expected to further spread from ecosystem to genetic level.
  • Biodiversity deterioration is also a factor to delay the progress towards 80% (35 out of 44) of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans, forests etc. It should be recognized that it is not only an environmental issue, but an issue related to many fields such as development, economy, security, social and moral issues.
  • There are large regional differences in the impact of agricultural expansion in intact ecosystems, but the losses are particularly serious in the tropical region, which boasts the largest biodiversity on earth. For example, between 1980 and 2000, a total of 100 million hectares of tropical forests were lost, mainly due to the expansion of cattle farms in Latin America (42 million hectares) and plantations in Southeast Asia (7.5 million hectares, of which 80% is for palm oil).
  • The negative trends in nature, ecosystem functions and nature’s contributions to people are expected to continue to 2050 and beyond, except in scenarios that include transformative change. To support sustainability, the report presents a comprehensive list of possible actions across sectors such as agriculture, marine and freshwater systems management, urbanization, development and socioeconomic issues, as well as food production and energy trade-offs etc.