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Global targets that reveal the social–ecological interdependencies of sustainable development

Abstract

We are approaching a reckoning point in 2020 for global targets that better articulate the interconnections between biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable development. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD’s) post-2020 global biodiversity framework and targets will be developed as we enter the last decade to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets. Despite recent findings of unprecedented declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services and their negative impacts on SDGs, these declines remain largely unaccounted for in the SDG’s upcoming ‘decade of action’. We use a social–ecological systems framework to develop four recommendations for targets that capture the interdependencies between biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable development. These recommendations, which are primarily aimed at the CBD post-2020 process, include moving from separate social and ecological targets to social–ecological targets that: account for (1) the support system role of biodiversity and (2) ecosystem services in sustainable development. We further propose target advances that (3) capture social–ecological feedbacks reinforcing unsustainable outcomes, and (4) reveal indirect feedbacks hidden by current target systems. By making these social–ecological interdependencies explicit, it is possible to create coherent systems of global targets that account for the complex role of biodiversity and ecosystem services in sustainable development.

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Fig. 1: A complex SES approach to the analysis of social–ecological interdependencies and feedbacks between biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable development.
Fig. 2: Goal clusters which summarize the findings of the IPBES global assessment on the consequences of biodiversity and ecosystem service trends for SDG achievement.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to have been part of the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) where the initial ideas for this Perspective were born.

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B.R. and E.R.S. contributed equally to this work as co-lead authors.

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Correspondence to Belinda Reyers.

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Reyers, B., Selig, E.R. Global targets that reveal the social–ecological interdependencies of sustainable development. Nat Ecol Evol 4, 1011–1019 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1230-6

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