Biodiversity loss is dire, don’t get distracted

Writing on behalf of the authors of the biodiversity section of the latest Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) from the United Nations Environment Programme, to be released in March 2019 (see go.nature.com/2b9fp9o), we are concerned about your discussion on the progress of the IPBES assessment (see Nature 560, 423–425; 2018). It risks diverting attention away from the scientific consensus on the perilous status and trends of biodiversity worldwide (see, for example, go.nature.com/2rttvwn).

GEO-6 indicates that policy responses have so far been insufficient to reduce or reverse biodiversity decline. Debate on best practice for conserving biodiversity is crucial. In our view, a ‘conservation triage’ approach must not prioritize reactive responses to environmental pressures at the expense of reducing those pressures. Empirical evidence indicates that land sparing benefits biodiversity more than land sharing does, yet the ‘half-Earth’ concept — setting aside half the Earth for biodiversity — remains controversial. Indigenous people and local communities should not be overlooked. They can offer bottom-up and innovative solutions for protecting biodiversity.

We do not yet know whether we have entered a sixth mass extinction or whether there are planetary boundaries that could define a safe Earth system for people. Meanwhile, GEO-6 reinforces the stark message that the health of the planet and its people depend absolutely on biodiversity.

Nature 564, 345 (2018)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-07804-0


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