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Part 1: Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 – Status of Biodiversity

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Context - The Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) is the flagship publication of the international Convention on Biological Diversity, summarizing the status and trends of biodiversity and drawing conclusions relevant to the further implementation of the Convention.

Given the importance of the subject and the amount of facts on the subjects these Highlights of the GBO5 report are divided into three separate parts:

Part 1: Highlights the context of the Convention and its objectives and the present global status of biodiversity

Part 2: Highlights the results of past & present action plans, objectives, actions and means at the horizon 2030

Part 3: Highlights of the pathways to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity

This is a faithful summary of the leading report produced in 2020 by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): " Global Biodiversity Outlook 5" 

  • Source document:CBD (2020)
  • Summary & Details: GreenFacts
Latest update: 11 June 2021

1. Introduction

This 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO5) provides clear evidence that can inform policy-making and guide an agenda for action. It spells out transitions that can create a society living in harmony with nature: in how we use land and forests, organize our agriculture and food supply systems, manage fisheries, use water, manage urban environments and tackle climate change.

The report offers an integrated overview of the world’s achievements and shortfalls of the previous global Biodiversity Targets of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2010-2020).

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets

1 - Awareness of biodiversity increased6 - Sustainable management of aquatic living resources11 - Protected areas16 - Access to and sharing benefits from genetic resources
2 - Biodiversity values integrated7 - Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry12 - Reducing risk of extinction17 - Biodiversity strategies and action plans
3 - Incentives reformed8 - Pollution reduced13 - Safeguarding genetic diversity18 - Traditional knowledge
4 - Sustainable production and consumption9 - Invasive alien species prevented and controlled14 - Ecosystem services19 - Sharing information and knowledge
5 - Habitat loss halved or reduced10 - Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change15 - Ecosystem restoration and resilience20 - Mobilizing resources from all sources

The report also examines the essential links between biodiversity and other global agendas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

2. What are the biodiversity issues that were recorded during the last decade?

Overall, little progress has been made over the past decade in eliminating, phasing out or reforming incentives potentially harmful to biodiversity.

Nearly 10 % of the total wilderness remaining in the early 1990s has been lost since then, accounting an estimated 3.3 million square kilometres of wilderness.

The capacity of ecosystems to provide the essential services on which societies depend continues to decline, and consequently, most ecosystem services (nature’s contributions to people) are in decline. In general, poor and vulnerable communities, as well as women, are disproportionately affected by this decline.

The inclusion of biodiversity in laws and regulations is slow to take hold. Relatively few countries have taken steps even to identify incentives that harm biodiversity and little progress has been made over the past decade in eliminating, phasing out or reforming subsidies and other incentives potentially harmful to biodiversity. Nearly half of all countries have not yet put in place the laws and regulations meeting the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Genetic diversity of cultivated plants, farmed and domesticated animals, and wild relatives, continues to be eroded. The wild relatives of important food crops are poorly represented in ex situ seed banks that help guarantee their conservation, important for future food security.

Among well-assessed taxonomic groups, nearly one quarter of species are threatened with extinction unless the drivers of biodiversity loss are drastically reduced.

3. What are the biodiversity areas that have been particularly affected?

Among the main biodiversity areas affected:

  1. Biodiversity continues to decline in landscapes used to produce food and timber; and food and agricultural production remains among the main drivers of global biodiversity loss. Deforestation is accelerating and the loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats remains high in forest and other biomes, especially in the most biodiversity-rich ecosystems in tropical regions.

  2. The area covered by natural wetlands has continued to decline;

  3. The decline of agricultural biodiversity may, in some cases, compromise agricultural production;

  4. Wild Pollinators have declined in distribution and diversity (and in some cases, abundance) at local and regional scales. Animal pollination is directly responsible for between 5-8% of current global agricultural production by volume;

  5. For bird species associated with international trade, a continued increase in extinction risk is reported by the Red List Index on internationally traded species typically meeting the demand for pet birds kept in cages;

  6. The cumulative number of invasive alien species increased, the result of massively expanded trade providing additional opportunities to carry species into alien environments;

  7. Rates of use (per area) of pesticides and nitrogen-based fertilizers are higher than the previous decade by about 14% and 12% respectively;

  8. Coral reefs (>60%) and other vulnerable ecosystems continue to be affected by multiple threats including climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and the effect of agricultural runoff;

  9. Genetic diversity of cultivated plants, farmed and domesticated animals, and wild relatives, continues to be eroded;

  10. Plastic pollution is accumulating in the oceans, with severe impacts on marine ecosystems and in other ecosystems with still largely unknown implications1. Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (‘ghost gear’) is a particularly deadly form marine waste impacting many threatened species.

4. What is the particular biodiversity status of fisheries and aquaculture?

One third of marine fish stocks are overfished, a higher proportion than ten years ago. Many fisheries are still causing unsustainable levels of bycatch of non-target species and are damaging marine habitats. There has been little progress in reducing global fisheries subsidies during this decade and some $22 billion was spent on subsidies linked to overfishing through expanding the capacity of fishing fleets.

Meanwhile, there are positive practices that are being implemented. For instance, in recent years the proportion of feed coming from capture fisheries has declined, and of this, more is coming from bycatch. Another positive practice is the increased use of marine bivalve filter feeders, sometimes grown in combination with fed finfish species, helping to lower nutrient load and reduce water pollution.

Aquaculture is generally paid much less attention than issues associated with forestry and agriculture while it is the fastest growing sector of global food production. Overall, much inland-water aquaculture, constituting approximately two-thirds of the total world production, is considered sustainable.

5. What are the impacts of climate change on biodiversity?

Total greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have grown by some 7% compared to the previous decade. Cascading impacts of changes in species interactions, linked to climate change, affect the structure and functioning of ecosystems, in turn threatening food security and other components of human well-being.

Climate change has impacted terrestrial and freshwater species and ecosystems in high mountain and polar regions, through appearance of land previously covered by ice, changes in snow cover, and thawing permafrost. These changes have contributed to shifts in seasonal activities of species, and altered the abundance and distribution of plant and animal species that all have important ecological, cultural and economic importance.


1 See our Highlight: Recent reports and initiatives on plastic and micro-plastic waste at sea

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