Extinction and justice among topics addressed by global experts taking part in Royal Society biodiversity essay project

04 March 2021

International experts warn humans are driving a new wave of extinction, define the multiple values of nature and propose solutions working with nature to address climate change in the next round of Royal Society biodiversity essays. The project seeks to provide policymakers with the latest evidence and insights into the challenges and solutions to tackle global biodiversity loss, which threatens ecosystems and the life that depends on them. 

The essays are summarised below and published in full at royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/biodiversity.

Why efforts to address climate change through nature-based solutions must support both biodiversity and people – Professor Nathalie Seddon, University of Oxford – ‘Nature-based solutions’ – ‘working with nature to achieve societal goals’ are required to manage biodiversity and climate change successfully. These include restoring and protecting forests and implementing green infrastructure. For nature based solutions to deliver sustained benefits to people, the ecosystems involved must be healthy and resilient, and change is needed in how businesses function, economies are run and individuals behave, Professor Seddon concludes. 

Past and future decline and extinction of species – Professor Christopher N. Johnson, University of Tasmania - Humans are driving a new wave of extinction – caused by population growth, increased consumption and globalisation. Extinctions reduce total diversity and compromise how ecosystems function. Efforts to establish protected areas, restore habitat and manage small populations have had some success at preventing extinction, but preventing broader species decline calls for more complex methods, the essay argues. These include keeping large areas of habitat undisturbed by humans, halting invasive species and tackling climate change. To do this, we must apply science, develop socioeconomic and governance models, and restore Indigenous knowledge and practice of environmental management. 

Plural valuation of nature matters for environmental sustainability and justice - Professor Berta Martín-López, Leuphana University of Lüneburg – Why care about nature? This essay explores what nature means to different people and groups – and the implications for biodiversity and environmental justice. Dr López argues there are multiple values of nature - intrinsic, instrumental, and relational. To achieve sustainability and environmental justice we must recognise the diverse values of nature, address unequal power dynamics, acknowledge winners and losers of biodiversity action and invite voices to make inclusive policies.