, April 29, 2010 (ENS) - World leaders have failed to fulfill their commitments to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, and have instead overseen "alarming" biodiversity declines, finds the first assessment of how the targets expressed in the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity have not been met.
Since 1970, human activities have reduced animal populations by 30 percent, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20 percent and the coverage of living corals by 40 percent, the assessment finds.
"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 the paper's lead author Dr. Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International.
The fishing cat, Prionailurus viverrinus, has changed category from Vulnerable to Endangered because of the severe decline throughout much of its Asian range over the last decade. (Photo © Mathieu Ourioux courtesy IUCN)
Published today in the journal "Science," the assessment compiling more than 30 indicators that measure different aspects of biodiversity such as 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 also found that the pressures facing biodiversity continue to increase.
"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," Dr. Butchart said.
The indicators used for the study were developed and synthesized through the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership, a collaboration of over 40 international organizations and agencies.
Matt Foster, director of conservation outcomes at Conservation International, said, "The steep loss of biodiversity is affecting all of us, but mainly those who are already the most vulnerable and dependent on nature for water, food and medicines. World leaders meeting in Japan this October must be more ambitious in halting biodiversity loss - our survival depends on it."
"These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development, as recognized by the UN Millennium Development Goals," said the UNEP's Chief Scientist Professor Joseph Alcamo.
Native to Tanzania, the Kihansi Spray Toad, Nectophrynoides asperginis, was declared Extinct in the Wild in the IUCN Red List in 2009. (Photo © Tim Herman courtesy IUCN)
The results of this study feed into Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, the flagship publication of the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be released in Nairobi on May 10, when government representatives from around the world will meet to discuss the 2010 target and how to address the biodiversity crisis.
Dr. Butchart said, "Although nations have put in place some significant policies to slow biodiversity declines, these have been woefully inadequate, and the gap between the pressures on biodiversity and the responses is getting ever wider."
The study recognizes that there have been some important local or national successes in tackling biodiversity loss, such as the designation of protected areas like the 20,000 square kilometer Juruena National Park in Brazil, the recovery of particular species like the European bison, and the prevention of some extinctions like the black stilt of New Zealand.
"While many responses have been in the right direction, the relevant policies have been inadequately targeted, implemented and funded," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
"Above all," he said, "biodiversity concerns must be integrated across all parts of government and business, and the economic value of biodiversity needs to be accounted for adequately in decision making. Only then will we be able to address the problem."
Coauthors of this assessment represent the following institutions: United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, BirdLife International, Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London), Statistics Netherlands,, The University of North Carolina, IUCN, Conservation International, United Nations Environment Programme Global Environment Monitoring System, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, European Commission Joint Research Centre, Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, (Conservation International), Global Footprint Network, University of Virginia, ISPRA, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, European Bird Census Council, University of Queensland, University of Cambridge, National Center for Atmospheric Research, WWF International, Centre for Invasion Biology and Cape Research Centre (South African National Parks), UNESCO, TRAFFIC International, University of British Columbia, National Centre for Biological Sciences (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research), The Nature Conservancy, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, American Bird Conservancy, Stellenbosch University, University of Bath, and the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort.
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