Despite more than 900 environmental treaties coming into force in the past 40 years, human-induced environmental degradation continues, reaching levels that prompted ICSU's blunt warning in 2010 that "humanity has reached a point in history at which a prerequisite for development the continued functioning of the Earth system as we know it is at risk."
Authors of the policy briefs note recently published contentions that humanity has already pushed Earth past limits on climate change, biodiversity loss and nitrogen use -- three of nine proposed "planetary boundaries" that must be respected for societies to grow and prosper.
The brief on biodiversity and ecosystem services notes that despite recent efforts to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the number of plant and animal species threatened with extinction continues to rise, forests and mangrove swamps are in sharp decline, and vast areas are increasingly dominated by a few successful species.
The brief offers new information detailing the fast-growing number of pollution-related oxygen depletion zones killing fish in coastal marine ecosystems -- now more than 500 worldwide.
Consequences include the diminished ability of ecosystems to act as a buffer against extreme events such as floods, fires, disease outbreaks and storm surges. "If the global community continues on its current path, the declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services will impede future efforts towards sustainable development pathways," the authors warn.
They call for a stronger inclusion of the multiple values of biodiversity and ecosystems into policy and management decisions, e.g. by measuring progress beyond traditional indicators such as the GDP. The concept of 'inclusive wealth' includes all forms of capital natural (land, water, soil, biodiversity and
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Earth System Science Partnership