IPBES Report on Natural Ecosystems and Biodiversity

May 08, 2019
3 months

Why in news?

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) recently released a report.

What is IPBES?

  • IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body, established by member States in 2012.
  • It is a global scientific body, similar in composition and functioning to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
  • IPCC’s assessment reports form the scientific basis on which the international negotiations on climate change have been happening.
  • IPBES is often described as the “IPCC for biodiversity”, as it is mandated to do a similar job for natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • The objective is to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

How does it differ from IPCC?

  • Like IPCC, IPBES does not produce any new science. It only evaluates existing scientific knowledge to make assessments and projections.
  • However, unlike IPCC, the IPBES assessment reports are likely to feed into and inform several multilateral processes.
  • Two UN Conventions are likely to be guided by this report in future, -
  1. Convention on Biological Diversity that addresses biodiversity issues
  2. Convention on Combating Desertification that deals with sustainable land management
  • Besides, the Ramsar Convention, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and Cartagena Protocol may also find some inputs.

What is the present report on?

  • The present one is the first global assessment report by the IPBES. [IPCC, set up in 1988, has produced 5 reports so far.]
  • It includes a systematic review of 15,000 scientific and government sources and resources collected from indigenous and local knowledge.
  • The IPBES report makes a comprehensive scientific evaluation of the state of Earth's natural ecosystems.
  • It gives a detailed account of health of the species that inhabit earth and the condition of habitats that they live in and depend upon.
  • It ranks “five direct drivers” that cause changes in nature that have the largest relative global impact.
  • In descending order, these include:
  1. changes in land and sea use
  2. direct exploitation of organisms
  3. climate change
  4. pollution
  5. invasive alien species

What are the key findings?

  • The health of ecosystems that humans and other species depend on is “deteriorating more rapidly than ever”.
  • As many as 1 million different species are facing the threat of extinction, more than at any previous time.
  • This is out of a total of an estimated 8 million plant and animal species.
  • The threat is because of changes brought about in natural environments by human activities.
  • The current rate of global species extinction is “tens to hundreds of times” higher compared to the average over the last 10 million years.
  • Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly.
  • Natural habitats are being destroyed at an accelerating pace.
  • 75% of earth’s land surface and 66% marine environments have been “significantly altered”.
  • Over 85% of wetland area had been lost.
  • But, on an average, these trends were less severe on areas controlled or managed by indigenous people and local communities like the tribes.
  • The negative trends in nature are expected to continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the assessment.

What is the relevance for India?

  • The report does not have country-specific information.
  • However, India can identify with most of the trends pointed out in the report.
  • The major biodiversity hotspot, vast areas, especially the coastline, of which are under tremendous stress due to large population, makes some findings very relevant to India.
  • E.g. 23% of global land area had shown a reduction in productivity due to degradation
  • Also, 100 to 300 million people are said to be at an increased risk of floods and hurricanes due to loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • The other findings in connection with India include the following:
  1. plastic pollution had increased 10 times from 1980
  2. the number of large dams (those with a height of 15 m or more) had reached almost 50,000
  3. human population had more than doubled since 1970s
  4. the number of urban areas had doubled since 1992
  • All these trends have been clearly visible in the case of India and thus bring with them the associated risks to natural ecosystems.

What is the way forward?

  • The report says there is still an opportunity for human beings to live in harmony with nature.
  • But there has to be a change in the way how natural resources are governed, and things are produced and consumed.
  • This is inevitable in terms of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.


Source: Indian Express

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