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International pledge on biodiversity broken, study finds

April 29, 2010
Courtesy Science
and World Science staff

In April 2002, world lead­ers gath­ered in The Hague and pledged to slow the rate of bio­divers­ity loss around the globe by 2010. But sci­en­tists say that the goal has­n’t been met. 

In a new study, Stu­art Butchart of the U.N. En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gram World Con­serva­t­ion Mon­i­tor­ing Cen­ter in Cam­bridge, U.K., and col­leagues col­leagues com­piled 31 in­di­ca­tors of bio­divers­ity. These in­cluded spe­cies num­bers, popula­t­ion sizes, de­for­esta­t­ion rates, and con­serva­t­ion ef­forts around the world.

The re­search­ers as­sessed these in­di­ca­tors with glob­al da­ta span­ning from 1970 to 2005 and found that the in­di­ca­tors of ro­bust bio­divers­ity showed de­clines over the years, while in­di­ca­tors of pres­sures on glob­al bio­divers­ity showed in­creases. 

De­spite some lo­cal suc­cesses in cer­tain ar­eas of the world, par­tic­u­larly on pro­tected lands, But­chart and col­leagues said they found no in­dica­t­ion that the rate of bio­divers­ity loss has been slow­ing. They say that in­creas­ing pres­sure on the world’s spe­cies, cou­pled with in­ad­e­quate re­sponses, have fat­ed the Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­vers­ity to fall short of its goals for this year. 

The 2002 meet­ing was a fol­low­up meet­ing of the Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­vers­ity, a trea­ty signed a dec­ade ear­li­er by 168 world lead­ers. At the lat­er gath­er­ing, lead­ers com­mit­ted them­selves “to achieve by 2010 a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion of the cur­rent rate of bio­divers­ity loss.”

How­ev­er, “the rate of bio­divers­ity loss does not ap­pear to be slow­ing,” But­chart and col­leagues wrote, re­port­ing their find­ings in the April 30 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Sci­ence

If world go­vernments are se­ri­ous about pre­serv­ing Earth’s spe­cies, the re­search­ers ar­gue that lead­ers must re­verse det­ri­men­tal poli­cies, in­te­grate bio­divers­ity in­to land-use de­ci­sions, and boost fund­ing for poli­cies that tack­le bio­divers­ity loss head-on.


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Back in 2002, world leaders gathered in The Hague for the Convention on Biological Diversity and pledged to slow the rate of biodiversity loss around the globe by 2010. But scientists say that the goal hasn’t been met, according to the Convention’s own framework. Stuart Butchart of the U.N. Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Center in Cambridge, U.K., and colleagues colleagues compiled 31 indicators, including species numbers, population sizes, deforestation rates, and conservation efforts around the world. The researchers assessed these indicators with global data spanning from 1970 to 2005 and found that the indicators of robust biodiversity showed declines over the years, while indicators of pressures on global biodiversity showed increases. Despite some local successes in certain areas of the world, particularly on protected lands, Butchart and colleagues said they found no indication that the rate of biodiversity loss has been slowing. They say that increasing pressure on the world’s species, coupled with inadequate responses, have fated the Convention on Biological Diversity to fall short of its goals for this year. The 2002 meeting was a followup on the Convention on Biological Diversity, a treaty signed a decade earlier by 168 world leaders. At the later gathering, leaders committed themselves “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss.” However, “the rate of biodiversity loss does not appear to be slowing,” Butchart and colleagues wrote, reporting their findings in the April 30 issue of the research journal Science. If world governments are serious about preserving Earth’s species, the researchers argue that leaders must reverse detrimental policies, integrate biodiversity into land-use decisions, and boost funding for policies that tackle biodiversity loss head-on.