World leaders have failed to deliver commitments made in 2002 to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and have instead overseen alarming biodiversity declines. These findings are the result of 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.
Compiling over 30 indicators--measures of different aspects of biodiversity, including changes in species' populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition--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. The synthesis provides overwhelming evidence that the 2010 target has not been achieved.
"Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002: biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems", said Dr Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International, and the paper's lead author.
"Our data show that 2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet."
The indicators included in the study were developed and synthesised through 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.
Among these indicators was the Ecological Footprint, which measures the aggregate demand that human activities, through consumption of resources and emission of carbon dioxide, place on ecosystems and species.
"A better understanding of the connections between the Ecological Footprint and biodiversity loss is fundamental to slowing, halting and reversing the ongoing declines in these ecosystems and in populations of wild species," said Dr. Alessandro Galli, senior scientist for Global Footprint Network and co-author of the study.
Among the drivers of threats to biodiversity are human demands for food, water, energy and materials, according to Galli. Such threats include climate change, pollution, habitat loss, as well as over-exploitation of resources and species.
"Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%," said the United Nations Environment Programme's Chief Scientist Prof Joseph Alcamo. "These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development, as recognised by the UN Millennium Development Goals."