World governments fail to halt biodiversity loss

LONDON (Reuters) - World governments have failed to meet a 2010 target to halt biodiversity loss and action must be taken to preserve the species and ecosystems upon which human life depends, a United Nations report said on Monday.

A diver explores dead coral reefs in Gili Trawangan at Indonesia's Lombok island May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Nila Tanzil

In a move endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly, more than 190 countries committed in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

But the report said: “The diversity of living things on the planet continues to be eroded as a result of human activity.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The consequences of this collective failure, if it is not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all.”

Natural habitats in most parts of the world are shrinking and nearly a quarter of plant species are estimated to be threatened with extinction, said the Global Biodiversity Outlook-3 report.

Farmland bird populations in Europe have declined by on average 50 percent since 1980, 42 percent of the world’s amphibian species are declining in numbers and crop and livestock genetic diversity is falling in farming.

The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) said the natural world provided services, such as fresh water, crop pollination and protection against natural disasters, worth trillions of dollars a year, but many economies failed to take this into account.

“Natural systems that support economies, lives and livelihoods across the planet are at risk of rapid degradation and collapse unless there is swift, radical and creative action to conserve and sustainably use the variety of life on Earth,” it said.

It said restructuring of the global economy after the financial crisis provided an opportunity to introduce regulation and market incentives to help stem the losses.

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The report said there had been significant progress in slowing the rate of loss for tropical forests and mangroves in some regions. But freshwater wetlands, sea ice habitats, salt marshes and coral reefs all showed serious decline.

“Business as usual is no longer an option if we are to avoid irreversible damage to the life-support systems of our planet,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which oversees international efforts to conserve species.

The report said climate change, pollution, habitat loss, overexploitation and invasive alien species were the five main drivers of biodiversity loss, and warned the provision of fresh water, food and medicine could be at risk.

The report, based on the work of 110 national reports, also highlighted areas where the 2010 target had prompted action.

It said more protected areas on land and in coastal waters had been created and conservation efforts had targeted some species. At least 31 bird species would have become extinct without them. Some 170 countries now had national action plans.

“This suggests that with adequate resources and political will, the tools exist for loss of biodiversity to be reduced at wider scales,” it said.

An international meeting in Nagoya, Japan, in October will consider goals for the next decade.

Matt Walpole, of the UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Center, launching Monday’s report, said: “On a global scale we are doing more than we ever have -- but it’s not enough.”

(For full report:

Editing by Mark Trevelyan