The world will miss its agreed target to stem biodiversity loss by next year, according to experts convening in Cape Town for a landmark conference devoted to biodiversity science.
The goal was agreed at the 6th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2003. Some 123 world ministers committed to "achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the local, national and regional levels, as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth."
"We will certainly miss the target for reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and therefore also miss the 2015 environmental targets within the UN Millennium Development Goals to improve health and livelihoods for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people," says Georgina Mace of Imperial College, London, and Vice-Chair of the international DIVERSITAS program.
"It is hard to image a more important priority than protecting the ecosystem services underpinned by biodiversity," says Mace. "Biodiversity is fundamental to humans having food, fuel, clean water and a habitable climate."
"Yet changes to ecosystems and losses of biodiversity have continued to accelerate. Since 1992, even the most conservative estimates agree that an area of tropical rainforest greater than the size of California has been converted mostly for food and fuel. Species extinction rates are at least 100 times those in pre-human times and are expected to continue to increase."
Situation not hopeless
However, she adds, "the situation is not hopeless. There are many steps available that would help but we cannot dawdle. Meaningful action should have started years ago. The next best time is now."
The DIVERSITAS conference, to be opened by UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, will call for new more science-based targets.
"A great deal of awareness-raising is still much needed with respect to the planetary threat posed by the loss of so many species. The focus of biodiversity science today, though, is evolving from describing problems to policy relevant problem solving," says Stanford University Professor Hal Mooney, DIVERSITAS Chair.
"Experts are rising to the immense challenge, developing interdisciplinary, science-based solutions to the crisis while building new mechanisms to accelerate progress. Biodiversity scientists are becoming more engaged in policy debates." - (EurekAlert!, October 2009)