New Global Partnership Tracks Plant and Animal Survival

PARIS, France, July 12, 2007 (ENS) - A new partnership to track the survival of Earth's diverse animals and plants was launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme with US$3.6 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility.

Monique Barbut is CEO of the Global Environment Facility. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin, ENB)
"The biodiversity challenge is no less urgent a public issue than the climate change crisis," said Monique Barbut, CEO of the funding organization the Global Environment Facility, GEF. "This effort helps move biodiversity to the front burner to help ignite policy makers to take informed action."

UNEP and the GEF officially introduced the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership project today during a working group meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Much of Earth biodiversity is at risk of extinction due to the pressure of human activities. Nearly one in four mammals, one in three amphibians, and one in eight birds is threatened with extinction, according to the Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by the IUCN-World Conservation Union.

The new 2010 Biodiversity Indicator Partnership will coordinate the delivery and communication of a suite of indicators measuring progress towards the 2010 target, agreed by governments, "to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010."

The deliberately non-specific 2010 Biodiversity Target was set in 2002 by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, who now number 189 countries and the European Union.

The target was endorsed by leaders at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development held in 2002 and at the UN Summit held in 2005 attended by 150 heads of state and government. It has now been included within the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.

Dr. Ahmed Djoshlaf is executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. (Photo courtesy ENB)
CBD Executive Secretary Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf said, "Last month, at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, the heads of state and government committed themselves to step up efforts for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in order to meet the Johannesburg target of a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010."

"This project will be an important contribution to achieving that target," he said.

"This new partnership helps ensure that the bar is raised around the globe for accounting for biodiversity loss," said Barbut.

Under the new $8.8 million partnership, which has secured over $3.6 million from the GEF, a wider range of existing and new indicators will be brought together to gain greater and deeper insight into whether the 2010 Biodiversity Target is on course.

Faviero de Wilson, Dimorphandra wilsonii, is a Critically Endangered tree, found in Brazil's Minas Gerais state. There are only 10 mature trees and six juveniles in the wild. (Photo © Fernando M. Fernandes courtesy IUCN)
"It is more important than ever for the biodiversity community to elevate its discourse and to reinforce the relevance of biodiversity conservation to sustainable economic development in the 21st Century," Barbut said.

Threats to the diverse species arise from human impact - deforestation and pollution, global warming, over-exploitation for food, and the illegal wildlife trade.

Some of the new indicators chosen by the CBD are the degree to which forests, farmlands and fisheries are managed in a way that protects biodiversity; the extent to which people are affected by changes in biodiversity; and the contribution of traditional knowledge to the biodiversity target.

There will be a focus on the components of biodiversity, including genes, species and ecosystems.

Several of the new indicators will require a comprehensive gathering of data, including trends in the spread of invasive alien species and trends in the health and wellbeing of communities dependent on the goods and services provided by local ecosystems.

Several indicators already exist which are giving some insight into how well the world is dealing with the biodiversity challenge.

The existing indicator of Protected Areas shows that around 12 percent of the Earth's land surface is now covered by more than 105,000 protected areas.

But ocean areas under protection are small - just 0.6 percent of the ocean's surface area and 1.4 percent of coastal shelf areas are protected, putting the survival of fish and shellfish species at risk.

The Polar Bear, Ursus maritimus, moved into the threatened categories after being reassessed as Vulnerable for the 2006 Red List. (Photo courtesy USFWS)
Other existing indicators are forest cover and the generation of nitrogen from sources such as fossil fuel burning, industry and fertilizer which can impact biodiversity and wildlife habitats.

Now known informally as the 2010BIP, the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership was formed in October 2005, during a project development phase funded by the Global Environment Facility and the UK government.

This launch event marks the start of the full, GEF-funded project, the first phase of which will run from mid-2007 to mid-2010.

The 2010BIP is coordinated by a Secretariat based at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, UK.

More than 40 partners from around the world are involved, including UN agencies, scientific research institutions such as the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre and the Zoological Society of London's Institute of Zoology, and nongovernmental organizations such as the IUCN, BirdLife International, and WWF International.

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