The world is in trouble – this is not news. How how much trouble it is in, however, is. And that is exactly what a latest piece of (extensive) research sheds light on.
When we say extensive by the way, we mean extensive with a capital E – it is the world’s most comprehensive report on biodiversity to date!
- The Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) involved 500 biodiversity experts from over 50 countries, and 134 governments.
- The IPBES authors reviewed more than 15,000 publications from scientific and governments sources.
Talk about extensive…
Related video: Why is biodiversity important
How much trouble are we in? (51 facts)
Here are just some of the key findings of the assessment (source). This is a long list, but not the complete list (which is wayyyy longer!). If you want to read about what can be done to stop things from getting worse, or the things you can do, skip to the relevant sections below:
- Nearly one million species are facing extinction. If nothing changes many of these could be gone within just decades.
- The extent to which the current rate of global species extinction is higher – tens to hundreds of times higher, in fact, in comparison to average over the last 10 million years, and the rate is accelerating.
- 40% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
- 33% of marine mammals are threatened with extinction.
- Almost 33% of reef-forming corals, sharks, and shark relatives are threatened with extinction.
- Almost 10% of insect species are threatened with extinction.
- At least 680 vertebrate species have been driven to extinction by human actions since the 16th century.
- 3.5% of domesticated breed of birds went extinct by 2016.
- There has been a 30% reduction in global terrestrial habitat integrity as a result of habitat loss and deterioration.
- 6 species of hoofed mammals (ungulate) would likely be extinct (or surviving only in captivity) without conservation measures.
- There is 8 million total estimated number of animal and plant species on Earth (including 5.5 million insect species).
- Agriculture, forestry, and urbanisation are the main reasons for biodiversity loss in land-based ecosystems and rivers. 75% of the terrestrial environments have been “severely altered” to date by human actions.
- Water-based ecosystems are most affected by fishing and this is made worse by changes in the use of the sea and coastal lands. 66% of the marine environments have been “severely altered” to date by human actions.
- There has been a 300% increase in food crop production since 1970.
- 23% of land areas have seen a reduction in productivity due to land degradation.
- Over 75% of global food crop types rely on animal pollination.
- Around 11% of the world’s population is undernourished.
- There has been a 3% increase in land transformation to agriculture between 1992 and 2015, mostly at the expense of forests.
- Over 33% of the world’s land surface (and +/-75% of freshwater resources) are devoted to crop or livestock production.
- 12% of the world’s ice-free land is used for crop production.
- 25% of the world’s ice-free land is used for grazing (+/-70% of drylands).
- Around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by land clearing, crop production, and fertilization, with animal-based food contributing 75% to that figure.
- 55% of the ocean area is covered by industrial fishing.
- 33% of marine fish stocks in 2015 were harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% are maximally sustainably fished; 7% are underfished.
- Our oceans net primary production is projected to decrease by 3-10% by the end of the century, due to climate change alone.
- Up to 33% of the world’s reported fish catch is illegal, unreported or unregulated (as on 2011).
- Over 50% of live coral cover of reefs have been lost since the 1870s.
- 100-300 million people in coastal areas are at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection.
- 50% of agricultural expansion occurred at the expense of forests.
- Around 10-15% of the global timber supplies are provided by illegal forestry (up to 50% in some areas).
- Raw timber production has gone up by 45% since 1970 (4 billion cubic meters in 2017).
- Over 2 billion people rely on wood fuel to meet their primary energy needs.
- Nature managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities is under increasing pressure but in general, is declining less rapidly than in other lands.
- The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900.
- 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.
- The numbers of invasive alien species per country have risen by about 70% since 1970.
- Around 60 billion tons of renewable and non-renewable resources are extracted globally each year, up nearly 100% since 1980.
- Global human population has gone up by 105% (from 3.7 to 7.6 billion) since 1970.
- More than 2,500 conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food, and land are currently occurring worldwide.
- Over 821 million people face food insecurity in Asia and Africa.
- Global per capita consumption of materials has increased by 15% since 1980.
- 40% of the global population lacks access to clean and safe drinking water.
- More than 80% of the global wastewater is discharged untreated into the environment
- Around 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters.
- Plastic pollution has gone up by 10 times since 1980.
- There has been a 100% increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1980, raising average global temperature by at least 0.7 degrees.
- 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions are from transport and food consumption related to tourism.
- Approximately 5% of species are at risk of extinction from 2°C warming alone, rising to 16% at 4.3°C warming.
- Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly.
- More than 1,000 environmental activists and journalists were killed between 2002 and 2013.
- Past and ongoing rapid declines in biodiversity, ecosystem functions and many of nature’s contributions to people mean that most international societal and environmental goals, such as those embodied in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be achieved based on current trajectories.
Check out this video for the key messages from IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers
What needs to happen to stop things from getting worse
The Global Assessment put forward a few recommendations on what needs to happen in order to stop things from getting worse. These are the five main recommendations:
- strengthen environmental laws.
- redefine human well-being beyond its narrow basis on economic growth.
- engage multiple public and private actors.
- link sustainability efforts across all governance scales.
- elevate Indigenous and local knowledge and communities.
“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture. The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” – IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson
What can you do
It’s not just up to the governments to take action in order to improve the state of things – each and every one of us have a responsibility to do out part.
So what can you do to make things better? Here are five ideas to help you get started:
- Choose local produce.
- Buy sustainably produced food.
- Reduce food waste.
- Include and learn from indigenous peoples and local communities.
- Ask governments to create laws and policies that address biodiversity considerations.
RELATED: How to reverse climate change
Want to learn more about the research?
- Check this out for more details about the assessment and its findings.
- You can learn more about IPBES and their work here.
Our world’s biodiversity situation is far worse than we ever could have imagined, but that does not mean there is no hope.
There is hope, and things can get better, but it will take all of us getting involved, and it will take awareness.
If we all pitch in and do our part, things will get better.
On that note, please share this post. Only with your help can we spread the word and raise more awareness.
Let us know in the comments what you think and if you have any additional tips.
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