Nature Canada

World Leaders Fail to Meet Biodiversity Targets

According to a new study co-authored by BirdLife International, world leaders have failed to deliver commitments made to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and have instead overseen alarming biodiversity declines.

The findings are explained in a new paper published in the leading journal Science and represent the first assessment of how the targets made through the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have not been met.

The study, led by Dr. Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Research and Indicators Coordinator, focuses on 31 indicators developed by the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, a collaboration of over 40 international organizations and agencies developing global biodiversity indicators and the leading source of information on trends in global biodiversity.

The results, of course, were not pretty. The study found no evidence for a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity, and that the pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase.

According to the study, governments and decision makers have made some progress on establishing more Protected Areas (PAs), Important Bird Areas have become better integrated within PAs and more forests are being sustainably managed. Progress, however, has been slow!

There have been declines in population trends of utilized vertebrates (by 15%) and extinction risk has increased for mammals, birds and amphibians used for food and medicine (23-36% of these species are threatened with extinction) and birds that are internationally traded (8% threatened).

The United Nations Environment Programme’s Chief Scientist has said that since 1970, animal populations have been reduced by 30%, areas of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%.

As Canada’s list of Species At Risk continues to grow year by year, its grasslands are converted and lost and the Arctic Sea ice continues to disappear, one can only turn back to the Government and say ‘you’ve failed us!’. However, the Canadian government approved a ‘Biodiversity Outcomes Framework’ – a tool to manage, measure, and report on biodiversity conservation in Canada and to assist governments in more directly engaging Canadians in conservation planning, implementation and reporting, according to Environment Canada. It provides implementation and reporting frameworks for the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy. A product of the Biodiversity Outcomes Framework is the Ecosystem Status and Trends Report is due this fall.

Finally, parties to the CBD are saddling up for their 10th Conference of the Parties meeting this October in Nagoya, Japan. They’re up for another challenge; to adopt 20 Targets with an aim of reducing and/or halting biodiversity loss by 2020. Let’s hope that this time they will take the issue more seriously.

UPDATE: Listen to Dr Stuart Butchart interviewed about the failure to meet the 2010 Biodiversity targets

Photo Credits: Food market = Claudia Peters Elephants in Ngorongoro Crater = Geof Wilson Coral reef = SF Brit

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