Bending the curve of biodiversity loss

The world needs a much more ambitious work plan to halt species loss and restore biodiversity.

In November 2018, almost 200 countries will meet to start working on a new global plan for nature, under the auspices of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  It is now more than 25 years since the convention was founded and the need for delivering on a much more ambitious work plan to halt the loss of species and habitats, and restore biodiversity has never been more urgent.

“A two degree goal for biodiversity”?

The authors want to see more well-defined, ambitious and measureable targets for biodiversity and suggest three necessary steps in a roadmap for the post-2020 agenda:

  1. Clearly specify the goal for biodiversity recovery
  2. Develop a set of measurable and relevant indicators of progress, and;
  3. Agree a suite of actions that can collectively achieve the goal in the required timeframe.

The first step, to specify the goal, they suggest should entail something specific, analogous to the well-known 1.5 to 2°C Paris climate agreement target. They propose adopting the CBD vision of sustaining a healthy planet that delivers essential benefits to all people by 2050 as a goal, including a new set of targets beyond 2020.

The second step, to identify measureable indicators, is more complex than the Paris Agreement’s greenhouse gas concentrations. Biodiversity requires multiple measures from local to global scales and for different ecological contexts. Progress can, however, be adequately represented using a collection of metrics that are already widely applied by science and policy, for example through the Living Planet Index, and the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII).

The third step, to identify concrete actions, should include traditional interventions such as protected areas and species conservation planning, but also address major drivers of biodiversity loss, such as unsustainable consumption and production. In this context, it is crucial to consider trade-offs and conflicts, for example between food production, species conservation, and land needed for climate mitigation through biofuels and carbon sequestration.

More sectors, more action

The authors conclude that sectors beyond governments, scientists and conservation groups must take urgent action if we are to bend the curve of biodiversity decline.

“The business and finance sectors, increasingly visible biodiversity actors, have the potential to become drivers of positive change,” they write.

But the authors also look themselves in the mirror, acknowledging that the scientific community can improve assessments to better represent the ecological processes and biodiversity indicators needed to develop plausible pathways to achieve the goals. This includes more-comprehensive models to identify potential win–win solutions and avoiding over-simplified strategies.

Furthermore, they recognise, the conservation community should come together around more clear key messages related to biodiversity. They can also play a more powerful role moving beyond the notion that single solutions can be enough, and instead promoting and supporting combinations of actions that long-term sustainability requires.

Read the paper online here.

Image: ondrejprosicky -

Have a query?