Renewed efforts needed to reach international biodiversity goals

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Renewed efforts are needed to reach international biodiversity goals, according to an international study involving scientists from Radboud University, published in Science. The study shows that climate change could be the main driver of biodiversity decline by the mid-21st century.

The analysis was led by the German Center for Integrated Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and is the largest modeling study of its kind to date. "By including all world regions in our models, we were able to fill many blind spots," said first author Prof. Henrique Pereira, head of the research group at iDiv and MLU.

Biodiversity loss

Ecosystem services

The researchers also calculated the impact of changes in land use and climate on so-called ecosystem services, or the benefits that nature provides to humans. ’We saw that provisioning ecosystem services, like food and timber production, increased dramatically over the past century. But regulating ecosystem services, such as pollination, nitrogen retention or carbon sequestration, declined,’ said ecologist Jelle Hilbers of Radboud University. ’So we are asking more of nature, but that may also be at the expense of the carrying capacity of nature.’

Future projections

The researchers also examined how biodiversity and ecosystem services might develop in the future. They assessed three commonly used scenarios - from sustainable development to a high-emissions scenario. The calculations show that future climate change puts additional pressure on biodiversity in all scenarios. While land-use changes remain relevant, climate change could be the main driver of biodiversity loss by the middle of this century. Schipper: "In the most sustainable scenario we have studied - which assumes no more than 2 degrees warming and more sustainable land use - we see a recovery of some regulatory ecosystem services. However, we also see that biodiversity continues to decline.’

According to the researchers, renewed efforts are needed to make progress and stop the decline of biodiversity. For example, one could look at nature restoration, the (even) better protection of existing natural areas, or measures aimed at more sustainable production and consumption. Hilbers: ’’The good news is that we saw that a scenario focused on sustainability does make a difference for biodiversity and ecosystem services. But we also saw that we really need to go the extra mile to stop the loss of biodiversity.’’

Literature reference

Pereira et al. (2024). Global trends and scenarios for terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystem services from 1900 to 2050, Science­1126/scien­ce.adn3441 )