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Biodiversity and Land Degradation: New Expert Insights

Emma Archer Van Garderen, Co-chair of the IPBES Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Africa, is Chief Researcher in natural resources and the environment at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa. A geographer by training, her research-focus is on drylands.

PRETORIA, South Africa, Mar 12 2018 (IPS) - This month, five landmark expert assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will be considered by Governments for final approval in Medellín, Colombia.

Four of the assessment reports present the best-available and most recent evidence about biodiversity and ecosystem services in the world’s major regions, including Africa. The fifth assessment report describes the state of global land degradation and restoration.

At the request of IPBES’ 128 member Governments, these assessments were initiated to better inform decisions about sustainable development.

The Africa assessment, over the past three years, involved extensive work by more than 100 leading experts from 32 countries. Scheduled for release on Friday 23 March is the report’s summary for policymakers, which includes:

* The main findings about the status of Africa’s significant natural assets and projections to 2050.
* Findings about how Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystem services are changing, and why. Critical here is the consideration of both negative findings (such as biodiversity loss and fragmentation) and positive findings (for example, where progress is being made, and how we can learn from such examples).
* Findings about how Africa is faring with respect to internationally-agreed targets, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The report also evaluates our chances to achieve these targets under a range of different policy and action scenarios.
* Options for policy and action.

Important to note that the IPBES reports are designed to be policy relevant, rather than policy prescriptive. In other words, our role is to consider key findings and then discuss the range of available options, including evidence for and against the effectiveness and potential of different types of responses.

Likewise in the IPBES land degradation and restoration assessment report (being launched Monday 26 March), having laid out key findings, we consider available response options, including evidence for and against certain choices.

Healthy soils and ecosystems are vital to agriculture, sustainable rural livelihoods and to many other aspects of human well-being. The findings in these assessments are likely to concern all African countries and Governments.

Realizing the potential role of these assessments in better decision-making will require commitment throughout the science-policy community. We will be working hard to ensure that the findings of the assessments reach decision makers in Governments, business, the not for profit sector and communities – to raise and support understanding of the nuances and implications of our findings.

We hope that, in turn, Governments will work closely with us — unpacking the implications of our findings for their priorities and their people, and engaging in further dialogue around these messages, which are so important to ensure African well-being today and tomorrow, as well as responding with concrete actions in the interests of both people and planet.

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