Vol 10, No. 1 [January-March 2012]

In focus
2 What future for biodiversity?

NEWS
10 UNESCO combating drought in Horn of Africa
11 Towards a global framework for groundwater governance
11 Ten proposals for safeguarding the ocean
12 Nine sites added to Global Geoparks Network
13 Forum calls for greater equity in new era of global science
13 Sharing science education expertise in Asia
14 A book on the ‘world’s most complex machine’

INTERVIEW
15 We pay tribute to Wangari Maathai, Kenya's green militant

HORIZONS
17 Taking the pulse of Earth sciences in Africa
20 Putting a price on conservation

IN BRIEF
24 Agenda
24 New Releases

Direct link A World of Science Vol 10 N°1 (PDF document)
See also archives for A World of Science.

Editorial

The biodiversity gamble

Missing the Biodiversity Target of slowing biodiversity loss by 2010 sent a shock wave through the international community that may yet prove to be salutary. The news created a sense of urgency which favoured the adoption of the Nagoya Biodiversity Compact in October 2010. As readers may recall, the compact fixes some ambitious targets to 2020, including those of halving the loss of natural habitats and increasing nature reserves from 12% to 17% of the world’s land area and from 1% to 10% of coastal and marine areas.

Governments also agreed in Nagoya on the need to create a body to evaluate progress in reaching these targets. Known as the Intergovernmental Science–Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), this body will be cosponsored by UNESCO, UNEP, FAO and UNDP. The Secretariat’s location should be known in April, when the results of a competitive bidding process are announced at the second IPBES plenary.

The question is, will the biodiversity targets to 2020 suffer the same fate as the 2010 Biodiversity Target? Or is there now sufficient awareness of how much humanity stands to lose if it allows the rate of extinctions to continue at the same alarming pace? The figures speak for themselves: 70% of all known plant species are threatened, 35% of invertebrates, 30% of amphibians, 22% of mammals…

Climate regulation, water purification and soil fertility are all dependent on biodiversity, yet these crucial ecosystem services are being crippled in many parts of the world by pollution, habitat loss and other stresses like human population growth: the number of Homo sapiens officially hit the 7 billion mark on 31 October.

Everyone agrees on the need to protect ecosystem services but conservation also has to be financially feasible. One approach is to ‘pay the protector.’ In the Serra do Espinhaço Biosphere Reserve in Brazil, home to no fewer than three biodiversity hotspots but also the most intensely mined biosphere reserve in the world, an ecotax provides revenue for municipalities with large protected areas, as we shall see in this issue.

UNESCO was instrumental in the adoption of an International Decade of Biodiversity to 2020, one aim of which will be to explain why we, as humans, have so much to gain from maintaining the planet’s biological diversity. In an article beginning overleaf, Thomas Lovejoy gives us a glimpse into what the future might hold for biodiversity… and hence for us.

At the risk of concluding this editorial on a low note, the financial difficulties UNESCO is encountering at the moment oblige me to turn A World of Science into a purely e-journal in 2012. If you are not an e-subscriber and would like to receive an e-mail alert each time the journal appears, simply register at www.unesco.org/en/a-world-of-science. If you would like to express your support for the journal or for UNESCO’s work on the ground, the Director-General has set up a ‘Donate to UNESCO’ portal at www.unesco.org.

Gretchen Kalonji
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

Back to top