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Biodiversity A Global Outlook

7. To what extent are ecosystems used sustainably?

  • 7.1 What proportion of ecosystems are managed sustainably?
  • 7.2 How is our ecological footprint changing?

7.1 What proportion of ecosystems are managed sustainably?

The fourth focal area in the 2010 framework looks at sustainable use of biodiversity. Assessing whether a resource is being used sustainably or unsustainably requires consideration of a number of factors, including the status of the resource in question, the impact of use on the ecosystem of which that resource is a part, and the socio-economic context of the resource use.

Assessing the sustainability of human use of biodiversity would require looking at the proportion of the area of forest, agricultural and aquaculture ecosystems under sustainable management, but global data for all these areas are currently not available.

Another possible measure for assessing sustainable use consists in looking at the proportion of production lands that have been certified as meeting certain criteria for sustainability. Although figures on certified area and products show positive trends, these should not be interpreted as significant progress towards sustainable use in general because only a small portion of production areas are certified as being under sustainable management. More...

7.2 How is our ecological footprint changing?

The ecological footprint is a concept that calculates the area of land and water needed to sustain a defined human population, based on the population’s use of energy, food, water, building material and other consumables. Although it does not provide a comprehensive assessment of demands on nature, it is a useful accounting tool whose purpose is to demonstrate the effect of human consumption on the productive capacity of the Earth.

Currently, two-thirds of the global ecological footprint is caused by the United  States, members of the European Union, China, India and Japan. The per capita footprint is much greater in developed countries that in developing countries.

Globally, humanity has moved from using, in net terms, about half the planet’s biocapacity in 1961 to 1.2 times the biocapacity of the Earth in 2001. The global demand for resources thus exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth to renew these resources by some 20%, and this overuse is still growing.

In the long run, humanity’s footprint needs to be significantly lower than global biocapacity, in order to provide a biodiversity buffer. More...

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