28.01.2013 - Natural Sciences Sector

A recipe linking nature and people

CC Clyde RobinsonSpice and Tea Exchange of Sarasota

Have you ever wondered how to represent the links between nature and people in a simple way to facilitate decision making? A diverse group of experts share their tips in addressing this very challenge and suggest possible ingredients of such a representation. The hope is that this ‘recipe’ will help the work of the top new nature platform (IPBES) in relating biodiversity and its benefits to human well-being, sustainability and conservation.

These simple representations, or the so called conceptual framework, provide a shared language and a common set of relationships and definitions. This week these experts presented their views to more than 100 governments gathered in Bonn for the First Session of the IPBES Plenary, the highest governing body of the Platform.

A conceptual framework for IPBES can help to ensure a coherent and consistent approach across the four functions of the Platform - knowledge generation, assessment, policy support and capacity building. It could also clarify linkages and integration between them.

"Indeed, a conceptual framework will be a common approach to discharging each of these envisaged functions and for guiding and framing the implementation of its programme of work, in a multiple knowledge, multiple discipline and multiple scale manner," says Salvatore Arico of UNESCO. "It will provide a critical lens through which to tackle the complex set of issues which IPBES will focus on."

Following the expert suggestions, the governments are currently considering the way forward in developing such a conceptual framework for IPBES. The possible ‘ingredients’ include biodiversity, ecosystem goods and services, and their benefits for human well-being. There are also institutions, decisions and drivers together with properties and processes that occur at different scales and affect the interaction between the components. 

"While unpacking these concepts it is important to keep in mind what appeals to different disciplines – capital is appealing to economists, human well-being to sociologists, and biodiversity to ecologists. We can achieve common understanding by doing so in a group," suggests Georgina Mace, Professor at the University College London.

"By fostering bridges between disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and local knowledge about the interdependence of human well-being, biodiversity and ecosystem services, IPBES will spur innovative ways (and research) to tackle problems of local, regional, and global societal relevance. A conceptual framework will be central to this goal," says Eduardo Brondizio, Professor at the Indiana University Bloomington and Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3.

Thomas Brooks, Head of Science and Knowledge at IUCN emphasizes that "IPBES will harness outstanding scientific input, but its purpose is far from academic. Rather, it will support policy and practice in halting our current, disastrous loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services". 

"IUCN supports the suggestions of the expert group and welcomes the interest of governments in developing a conceptual framework for IPBES," adds Cyrie Sendashonga, Global Director of Policy and Programmes at IUCN. "However we also suggest a number of improvements in the proposed ‘cooking steps’. For example, as much alignment as possible between the IPBES conceptual framework and the set of indicators used to measure progress in achieving Aichi Targets is critical. It would identify the gaps and best support appropriate policy implementation and communication at various levels in halting the loss of biodiversity."

The work of informal group of experts in identifying the ingredients of a possible conceptual framework and the outcome of their discussions were produced with the support of UNESCO, DIVERSITAS, IHDP, IUCN, Ministry of the Environment of Japan, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and UNEP.

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