Biodiversity from terrestrial, marine, coastal, and inland water ecosystems provides the basis for ecosystems and the services they provide that underpin human well-being. However, biodiversity and ecosystem services are declining at an unprecedented rate, and in order to address this challenge, adequate local, national and international policies need to be adopted and implemented.
To achieve this, decision makers need scientifically credible and independent information that takes into account the complex relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem services, and people. They also need effective methods to interpret this scientific information in order to make informed decisions. The scientific community also needs to understand the needs of decision makers better in order to provide them with the relevant information. In essence, the dialogue between the scientific community, governments, and other stakeholders on biodiversity and ecosystem services needs to be strengthened.
To this end, a new platform has been established by the international community – the ‘Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES). IPBES was established in April 2012, as an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations. The members are committed to building IPBES as the leading intergovernmental body for assessing the state of the planet’s biodiversity, its ecosystems and the essential services they provide to society. www.ipbes.net
IPBES provides a mechanism recognized by both the scientific and policy communities to synthesise, review, assess and critically evaluate relevant information and knowledge generated worldwide by governments, academia, scientific organisations, non-governmental organisations and indigenous communities.
This involves a credible group of experts in conducting assessments of such information and knowledge in a transparent way. IPBES is unique in that it will aim to strengthen capacity for the effective use of science in decision-making at all levels. IPBES will also aim to address the needs of Multilateral Environmental Agreements that are related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and build on existing processes ensuring synergy and complementarities in each other’s work.
“The decline in the diversity of crops and animals is occurring in tandem with the need to sharply increase world food production and as a changing environment makes it more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions,”
Among crops, about 75 per cent of genetic diversity was lost in the last century as farmers worldwide switched to genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties and abandoned multiple local varieties. There are 30,000 edible plant species but only 30 crops account for 95% of human food energy, the bulk of which (60%) comes down to rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.
Causes of genetic erosion in domestic animals are the lack of appreciation of the value of indigenous breeds and their importance in niche adaptation, incentives to introduce exotic and more uniform breeds from industrialised countries, and product-focused selection.
This reflects a worldwide compression of care concerning food, plant and animal diversity, placing us at an ever increasing risk of substantive ecosystem loss with downstream consequences for poor risk management and ultimately starvation.