Biodiversity crisis affects billions who depend on wild species, researchers say

Biodiversity crisis affects billions who depend on wild species, researchers say
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Billions of people around the world depend on some 50,000 wild species for food, energy, medicine and income, according to a new scientific report that has concluded that humans must make drastic changes to hunting and other practices to address a crisis of accelerated biodiversity.

The report, prepared for the United Nations over four years by 85 experts from 33 countries, is the most comprehensive look yet at ways to use wild species sustainably, or in ways that do not lead to long-term decline. of those resources and ensures their availability for future generations. It is based on thousands of scientific studies and other references, including a body of indigenous and local knowledge. Indigenous and poor communities are among the most immediately affected by the overuse of wildlife, according to the report.

“Half of humanity benefits from and makes use of wild species, often without even knowing they are doing it,” said Marla R. Emery, one of the co-chairs of the assessment, which was conducted by the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A abstract it was approved Thursday in Bonn, Germany, by representatives from 139 countries, including the United States, and the full report will be published in a few months.

However, the focus of this latest assessment was to provide a more optimistic perspective on how people around the world can sustainably use wild species, said Jean-Marc Fromentin, also one of the co-chairs.

One-third of wild species used by humans in some way, and also appearing on the “red list,” those listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, experienced stable or increasing population trends despite from human use, according to a study cited in the report. This suggests that “the use of these specific species is not yet directly contributing to their extinction, as far as we can tell,” said Sophie Marsh, a master’s student in biodiversity at University College London and lead author of the study. study on endangered specieswhich was published in 2021.

Indigenous and local knowledge is crucial to learning some of the best practices for sustainable use, the report said, but has traditionally been underused. Indigenous communities have long incorporated sustainable uses of wildlife into their cultural practices, and an estimated 15 percent of the world’s forests are managed as “community resources,” according to the report, by indigenous peoples and local communities.

The report referred to practices such as those used in the foothills of the Cordillera region of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines. There, “the entire community is mobilized to protect the forest,” he said. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous rights activist who grew up in the region. The practice is called Batangan, a resource management system that involves a shared sense of responsibility for monitoring the diversity of forests and planting new trees as older ones age.

It’s not just about trees, “it’s about water, plants and animals, microorganisms” and, increasingly, it’s about climate change, as forests play a critical role in sequestering carbon, he said. Mrs. Tauli-Corpuz said.

The sustainable use of wild species is fundamental to the identity and existence of many indigenous and local communities, according to the report.

“If wildlife disappears, our culture is at risk, our lifestyle and livelihood are at risk,” said Viviana Figueroa, an Argentine indigenous lawyer and activist who engaged in dialogues with the report’s authors as part of her participation in the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but at least there is some recognition,” Ms. Figueroa said.

Future policies governing the use of wild species will need to take into account the social and historical dimensions of sustainability, and whether the benefits of that use are fairly distributed. For example, vicuña fibers, found in luxury garments, command a high price and are produced primarily by low-income indigenous communities in South America who contribute to vicuña conservation by allowing the animals to graze on their communal or private land.

However, it is “nearly impossible” for a remote Andean community to do business with an international textile company or place its product on the international market, according to the report, meaning that most of the profits from the vicuña fiber trade are captured. by merchants. and textile companies.

The fishing industry should reduce unregulated and illegal fishing, support more small-scale fisheries and remove harmful subsidies that encourage overfishing, the report recommended. The timber industry will also need to invest in technology that reduces waste in the manufacture of wood products, the report finds, and governments may need to increase bans or regulations on bushmeat in some regions, at the same time. while evaluating whether those policies could affect food insecurity in those areas.

The new report’s findings may soon have a direct effect on international politics. The report was made in part at the request of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a treaty aimed at ensuring that global trade in plants and animals does not endanger their survival in the wild. the treaty parties will use the results of the assessment to inform its trade-related decisions at its conference in Panama in November.

Overexploitation of wild species is not the only factor driving the decline; Human-caused climate change is also a major force, according to the report. Increasing human population and consumption, coupled with technological advances that make many extractive practices more efficient, will also put increased pressure on wild species.

“We have to make sure that these policy instruments benefit everyone,” said Emma Archer, a professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and one of the lead authors of the assessment. “There doesn’t have to be winners and losers at the same time.”

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