What can we do to protect biodiversity?

Loss of natural habitats has been taking place over thousands of years, but scientists are confident that we have ways to help biodiversity recover. Global efforts so far have been insufficient. We must produce food much more efficiently using less land and with less waste. We must also change how and where we urbanise and industrialise landscape and the ocean, and how we produce energy. Paying more attention to the multiple values of nature, including placing a financial value on nature, might also help us to avoid losing more biodiversity.

The world’s nations could improve the situation at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to be held in Kunming, China. Ours is the first generation that understands in detail the damage that it is causing to biodiversity – and the last with the time to make a difference.

Growing populations and the even faster growing rates of consumption are a major threat to biodiversity. Half of the Earth’s ice free and otherwise habitable land is now occupied by cropland and pastures, and it is estimated that half of the species at risk are threatened by agriculture. We need new ways of farming, using land for different purposes. Exactly how we do that is currently much debated.

Deforestation, often linked to agriculture, is also a major problem, bringing about the destruction of habitats. It is essential to protect forests. A growing threat is climate change, which is both driven by and drives biodiversity loss. Reducing emissions and absorbing carbon will be an essential route to reducing biodiversity loss. Nature-based solutions for climate change include methods which could enhance biodiversity at the same time as tackling climate change.

We will also need new ways to value and account for nature that put a price on its destruction so that we take this into account when assessing the overall cost and value of what we produce. We also need a global monitoring network that allows us to hold countries to account for failures to tackle biodiversity loss.

And finally, we need to do more to support the Indigenous peoples and local communities on whose land biodiversity is thriving, but who are struggling to protect it against the pressures of external developers and extractive industries. Strengthening their land rights will help protect them as well as protecting biodiversity.

To find out more; Preserving global biodiversity requires rapid agricultural improvements | Royal Society; Plural valuation of nature matters for environmental sustainability and justice | Royal Society; The economics of biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review | Royal Society