Integrated action needed to curb biodiversity loss

Plant and animal species across the world are steadily disappearing due to human activity. A breakthrough IIASA-led study emphasizes that without ambitious, integrated action, turning the tide of biodiversity loss will not be possible by 2050.

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Biodiversity – the variety and abundance of species, along with the extent and quality of the ecosystems they call home – has been declining at an alarming rate for many years. If this trend continues, there will simply not be enough nature left to support future generations. Balancing the demand of a burgeoning global population and economy with the need to stem the exploitation of Earth’s natural resources is one of today’s greatest challenges.
The study, which forms part of the 2020 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Living Planet Report, set out to explore, for the first time, the actions required to reverse the current global biodiversity declines from land use change and illuminate what integrated future land use pathways to achieving this goal might entail.

Using multiple models and newly developed scenarios, the study provides information on pathways that could realize the 2050 vision of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. According to the authors, action is needed in two key areas namely bold conservation and restoration with increased management effectiveness; and food system transformation, including reduced food waste, diets that have a lower environmental impact, and further sustainable intensification and trade. Integrated action would need to happen concurrently in both areas to turn biodiversity loss from land use change around by 2050 or earlier.

Scenarios that combined increased conservation and restoration initiatives alongside transformations of the food system showed that  opportunities for ambitious conservation and restoration efforts were greater, and potential adverse food security impacts defused. Finally, such transformative change in food and land use systems would also deliver significant co-benefits such as a marked contribution to ambitious climate mitigation targets, reduced pressure on water resources, reduced excess of reactive nitrogen in the environment, and health benefits.

The study offers a beacon of hope and shows that biodiversity declines from the largest threat to biodiversity to date can still be stabilized and the loss of nature reversed. However, to truly bend the curve of biodiversity loss, wholesale transformational changes in food production and consumption, as well as bolder, more ambitious conservation and restoration efforts must be undertaken in tandem with actions to address climate change.