Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

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The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is a report[1] by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, on the global state of biodiversity. A summary for policymakers was released on 6 May 2019.[2] The report states that, due to human impact on the environment in the past half-century, the Earth's biodiversity has suffered a catastrophic decline unprecedented in human history, [3] as an estimated 82 percent of wild mammal biomass has been lost. The report estimates that there are 8 million animal and plant species on Earth, with the majority (5.5 million) represented by insects. Out of those 8 million species, 1 million are threatened with extinction, including 40 percent of amphibians, almost a third of reef-building corals, more than a third of marine mammals, and 10 percent of all insects.


In 2010 a resolution by the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly urged the United Nations Environment Programme to convene a plenary meeting to establish an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).[4][5] In 2013 an initial conceptual framework was adopted for the prospective IPBES plenary.[5]

From 29 April to 4 May 2019, representatives of the 132 IPBES members met in Paris, France, to receive the IPBES's full report and adopted a summary of it for policymakers. On 6 May 2019, the 40-page summary was released.[6][7]

Objective and scope[edit]

The Global Assessment Report is a global-level assessment of changes in Earth's biodiversity that have occurred over the past 50 years. It draws an extensive picture of economic development and its effects on nature in that period. The Report is a collaborative effort by 145 authors from 50 countries,[8] produced over a three-year period and supported by some 310 authors' contributions.[9] The Global Assessment Report comprises some 1,700 pages[8] evaluating over 15,000 scientific publications and reports from indigenous peoples.[10] The Report's authors are predominantly natural scientists, one-third are social scientists, and about ten percent are interdisciplinary workers.[8]

The IPBES Report—an analogue to reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report — is intended to form a scientific basis for informed political and societal decisions on biodiversity policies.[11] It is the first United Nations report on the global state of biodiversity since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2005.[12]


"Finding out that 1 million species face extinction without radical corrective changes in human behavior is akin to finding out you have a fatal disease. One day you have a thousand problems; the next, you have just one. Nothing in today’s headlines compares to the catastrophic potential posed by climate change and the decimating effects of careless consumerism around the globe."

Kathleen Parker for The Washington Post, May 7, 2019[13]

The Report examined the rate of decline in biodiversity and found that the adverse effects of human activities on the world's species is "unprecedented in human history":[14] one million species, including 40 percent of amphibians, almost a third of reef-building corals, more than a third of marine mammals, and 10 percent of all insects are threatened with extinction.[15] This is out of an estimated 8 million animal and plant species, including 5.5 million insect species. The drivers of these extinctions are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.[6]

Since the 16th century, at least 680 species of vertebrates have become extinct.[16] By 2016, among mammals, more than nine percent of livestock breeds were extinct, and another 1,000 breeds are threatened with extinction.[17] The authors have coined the expression "dead species walking" for the more than 500,000 species that are not yet extinct but, due to changes in, or reduction of, their habitats, have no chance of long-term survival.[18]

A 2002 satellite image showing deforestation due to palm oil farming in Malaysian Borneo.

According to the Report, the threat to species diversity is human-caused.[19] The main cause is the human land requirement, which deprives other species of their habitats.[10] In the past 50 years, the world's human population has doubled,[20][12] per capita gross domestic product has quadrupled,[21] and biodiversity has suffered a catastrophic decline.[22] Most notably, tropical forests have been cleared for cattle pastures in South America and for oil-palm plantations in Southeast Asia.[23] Some 32 million hectares (79 million acres) of tropical rainforest were destroyed between 2010 and 2015, compared to the 100 million hectares (250 million acres) lost in the latter two decades of the 20th century. Already 85 percent of the world's wetlands have been lost.[24]

The total biomass of wild mammals has decreased by 82 percent, while humans and their farm animals now make up 96 percent of all mammalian biomass on Earth.[10] Additionally, since 1992 the land requirement for human settlements has more than doubled worldwide;[25] and humanity has rendered 23 percent of Earth's land ecologically degraded and no longer usable.[24] Industrial farming is considered to be one of the major contributors to this decline.[26][27] Around 25% of the planet's ice-free land is being used to rear cattle for human consumption.[10]

In the oceans, overfishing is a major cause of species loss.[16][27] Some 300–400 million metric tons (660–880 billion lb) of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes per year enter the water cycle from industrial facilities.[10][28] Since the 19th century, the world's coral reefs have been reduced by half.[24]

When estimating the effect of climate change on species' extinction risk, the report concluded that global warming of 2 °C (3.6 °F) over the preindustrial levels would threaten an estimated 5% of the Earth's species with extinction even in the absence of any other factors like land use change. If the warming reached 4.3 °C (7.7 °F), they estimated that 16% of the Earth's species would be threatened with extinction. In the oceans, they estimated that in the range between those "low" and "high" global warming scenarios, ocean net primary production would decline by 3% to 10% by the end of the century, while fish biomass would decline by 3% to 25%. Finally, even the lower warming levels of 1.5–2 °C (2.7–3.6 °F) would "profoundly" reduce geographical ranges of the majority of the world's species, thus making them more vulnerable then they would have been otherwise.[6]

Socioeconomic consequences include threatened loss of food production, due to loss of pollinator insects, valued at between $235 and $577 billion a year; and anticipated loss of the livelihoods of up to 300 million people, due to loss of coastal areas such as mangrove forests.[24]


The Report warned that society should not fixate on economic growth,[29][30] and that countries should "base their economies on an understanding that nature is the foundation for development."[8][31] The Report called on countries to begin focusing on "restoring habitats, growing food on less land, stopping illegal logging and fishing, protecting marine areas, and stopping the flow of heavy metals and wastewater into the environment."[31] It also suggests that countries reduce their subsidies to industries that are harmful to nature, and increase subsidies and funding to environmentally beneficial programs.[32] Restoring the sovereignty of indigenous populations around the world is also suggested, as their lands have seen lower rates of biodiversity loss.[33] Additionally, it highlighted needed shifts in individual behaviours, such as reducing meat consumption.[10][23][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services". 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  2. ^ Niranjan, Ajit (22 May 2019). "As extinctions loom, biodiversity warnings fail to resonate with governments, media". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  3. ^ "World is 'on notice' as major UN report shows one million species face extinction". UN News. 6 May 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  4. ^ Vadrot, Alice B. M.; Rankovic, Aleksandar; Lapeyre, Renaud; Aubert, Pierre-Marie; Laurans, Yann (1 March 2018). "Why are social sciences and humanities needed in the works of IPBES? A systematic review of the literature". Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research. 31 (Suppl 1): 78–100. doi:10.1080/13511610.2018.1443799. ISSN 1351-1610. PMC 5898424. PMID 29706803.
  5. ^ a b Duraiappah, Anantha Kumar; Rogers, Deborah (September 2011). "The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: opportunities for the social sciences". Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research. 24 (3): 217–224. doi:10.1080/13511610.2011.592052. ISSN 1351-1610. S2CID 143298612.
  6. ^ a b c "Media Release: Nature's Dangerous Decline 'Unprecedented'; Species Extinction Rates 'Accelerating'". IPBES. 5 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Nature's decline 'unprecedented' in human history: 1 million species threatened with extinction". Radboud University.
  8. ^ a b c d "One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns". National Geographic. 6 May 2019. Archived from the original on 6 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  9. ^ Chazan, David (6 May 2019). "'Mass extinction event' that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Watts, Jonathan (6 May 2019). "Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  11. ^ Masood, Ehsan (22 August 2018). "The battle for the soul of biodiversity". Nature. 560 (7719): 423–425. Bibcode:2018Natur.560..423M. doi:10.1038/d41586-018-05984-3. PMID 30135536.
  12. ^ a b Stokstad, Erik (5 May 2019). "Landmark analysis documents the alarming global decline of nature". Science. AAAS. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  13. ^ Parker, Kathleen (7 May 2019). "Nothing in today's headlines compares to the coming catastrophe". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  14. ^ "Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an 'Unprecedented' Pace". The New York Times. 6 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  15. ^ Hancock, Farah (7 May 2019). "Million species facing extinction: report". Newsroom. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  16. ^ a b Borenstein, Seth (6 May 2019). "UN report: Humans accelerating extinction of other species". AP News. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  17. ^ Shieber, Jonathan (6 May 2019). "New study shows human development is destroying the planet at an unprecedented rate". TechCrunch. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  18. ^ Baier, Tina (6 May 2019). "Der Mensch verdrängt eine Million Tier- und Pflanzenarten". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). ISSN 0174-4917. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  19. ^ Resnick, Brian (7 May 2019). "A million species are at risk of extinction. Humans are to blame". Vox. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  20. ^ Dalton, Jane (6 May 2019). "UN issues world alert over 'direct threat to humanity'". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  21. ^ "UN Report: Nature's Dangerous Decline 'Unprecedented'; Species Extinction Rates 'Accelerating'". 6 May 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2020. Since 1970 the global human population has more than doubled (from 3.7 to 7.6 billion), rising unevenly across countries and regions; and per capita gross domestic product is four times higher – with ever-more distant consumers shifting the environmental burden of consumption and production across regions.
  22. ^ Cookson, Clive (6 May 2019). "Extinctions increasing at unprecedented pace, UN study warns". Financial Times. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  23. ^ a b McGrath, Matt (6 May 2019). "Humans 'threaten 1m species with extinction'". BBC. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  24. ^ a b c d Schwägerl, Christian (6 May 2019). "Dramatischer Uno-Bericht: Eine Million Arten vom Aussterben bedroht". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  25. ^ Fingas, Jon (6 May 2019). "UN study says humans are damaging nature at 'unprecedented' rate". Engadget. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
  26. ^ Vidal, John (15 March 2019). "The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 May 2019. "The food system is the root of the problem. The cost of ecological degradation is not considered in the price we pay for food, yet we are still subsidizing fisheries and agriculture." - Mark Rounsevell
  27. ^ a b Van Roekel, Annemieke (11 June 2019). "Earth's biota entering a sixth mass extinction, UN report claims". EuroScience. Main offenders are industrial agriculture and fisheries.
  28. ^ Pirani, Fiza (7 May 2019). "More than 1 million species at risk of extinction because of humans, UN warns". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  29. ^ Hannam, Peter (6 May 2019). "'Unparalleled': A million species at risk as humanity's impact rises". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 May 2019. A key constituent of sustainable pathways is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.
  30. ^ "One million species to go extinct 'within decades'". Al Jazeera English. 6 May 2019. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  31. ^ a b "World must undergo huge social and financial transformation to save future of human life, major report finds". The Independent. 6 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  32. ^ "We're facing a biodiversity crisis, according to landmark UN study". The Ecosia Blog. 7 May 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  33. ^ Noor, Dharna (15 June 2019). "Socialism or Extinction". Jacobin. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  34. ^ "Biodiversity Assessment". Biodiversity Assessment.

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