Sat, Mar 24, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Scientists release survey into state of biodiversity

AFP, Medellin, Colombia

Scientists were yesterday to deliver a comprehensive assessment of the state of biodiversity — the animals and plants that humankind depends on to survive but has driven into a mass species extinction.

The work of about 600 scientists over three years, four reports will be unveiled in Medellin, Colombia, under the umbrella of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The diagnosis is expected to be dire.

“If we continue the way we are, yes the... sixth mass extinction, the first one ever caused by humans, will continue,” IPBES chairman Robert Watson said ahead of the much-anticipated release.

However, the good news: “It’s not too late” to slow the rate of loss, he said.

Scientists say humankind’s voracious consumption and wanton destruction of nature has unleashed the first mass species die-off since the demise of the dinosaurs — only the sixth on our planet in half-a-billion years.

The first major biodiversity assessment in 13 years comes in the same week that the world’s last male northern white rhino died in Kenya — a stark reminder of the stakes.

“The IPBES conference is going to tell us that the situation is continuing to deteriorate, they are going to tell us some ecosystems are being brought to the brink of collapse,” WWF director-general Marco Lambertini said on Thursday. “The IPBES is going to make a strong case for the importance of protecting nature for our own well-being.”

The volunteer experts who compiled the reports, drawing on data from about 10,000 scientific publications, have been discussing their contents with representatives of the IPBES’ 129 member countries in Medellin since Saturday last week.

The contents of five summary reports for government policymakers, each about 40 pages long, were negotiated word-for-word, line-by-line.

The summary reports are condensed versions of five monumental assessments, each about 600-900 pages, which are to be published only after the conference.

The first four summaries were released simultaneously yesterday — one for each of four world regions — the Americas, Africa, the Asia-Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia. A fifth report, due on Monday, will focus on the global state of soil, which is fast being degraded through pollution, forest-destruction, mining and unsustainable farming methods that deplete its nutrients.

Together, the five assessments cover the entire Earth except for Antarctica and the open oceans — those waters beyond national jurisdiction.

The entire process has cost about US$5 million.

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