JUN 19, 2020 6:44 AM PDT

Reframing species conservation

Following the failure of the 10-year plan for conserving biodiversity to reach its 2020 goals, a team of scientists has proposed framing conservation differently. The International Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted 20 Aichi biodiversity targets in 2010 that were agreed upon by the CBD signatories detailed worldwide protection of ecosystems and support of sustainability.

"Humankind depends on biodiversity," says Professor Mark Rounsevell, Head of the Land Use Change and Climate Research Group of the Atmospheric Environmental Research Division of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s (KIT) Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research. "Without the services provided by ecosystems, such as crop pollination by insects, we lack the fundamental basis of our life support system. Politics needs a clear target to conserve biological diversity in order to maintain the supply of ecosystem services." 

To do so, Rounsevell and others from KIT propose making the messaging about species conservation clearer: limit species extinctions to 20 per year over the next 100 years. With a target that is easy to communicate and measure, the scientists hope that species conservation will receive more attention. The scientists hope to include this target in the CBD that will be negotiated next year.

The number 20 is based on studies that have established a threshold value, meaning the point where species extinction begins to have long-term adverse impacts on the environment. The researchers explain that species extinction should not exceed more than ten times the background (i.e. prehistorical) rates. "With presently about two million species described, this corresponds to about 20 extinct species per year," Rounsevell says. "This includes all fungi, plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates as well as all ecosystem types, whether terrestrial, freshwater, or marine." That being said, the ultimate goal should be to return extinctions to background rates.

The researchers have also proposed a number of actions to meet this target, including the extension of nature protection areas, increased funding of species protection, further development of ecolabels, or strict prosecution of wildlife trade. 

"Each country has to develop its own catalog of measures and to take responsibility for reaching the target,” urges Rounsevell. "To find out how the rate of species extinction will develop, large-scale monitoring projects will be required."

Sources: Science, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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