How much biodiversity was lost or changed on Earth last year?

An international team of 30 scientists has proposed a new system of monitoring changes in global biodiversity.

Unlike the monitoring of climate change, a global system of harmonized observations to monitor biodiversity change does not currently exist.

The team, Led by Henrique Miguel Pereira, from Environmental Biology of the University of Lisbon has set out to change this by suggesting a process for identifying essential biodiversity variables in the context of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network.

Between January 21 and January 26, delegates from almost 100 countries will meet in Bonn for the first plenary meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Henrique M. Pereira stresses the importance of fostering discussion on international responsibilities in monitoring: "The biggest gaps in biodiversity monitoring occur in developing countries, in regions receiving some of the largest environmental pressures, and many of these pressures are caused upstream by developed countries. It is therefore essential to discuss the sharing of international responsibilities in the development of a truly global biodiversity monitoring system."

Essential biodiversity variables will help build on existing monitoring schemes and guide the implementation of new ones, especially in areas where information on biodiversity change is still very sparse. Examples of such variables are the diversity of selected wild and domestic species, the population abundances for groups of species representative of some taxa (eg. birds), the three-dimensional structure of the habitats, and the nutrient retention rate in sensitive ecosystems. These variables can be modeled globally, combining satellite remote sensing observations with local observations obtained by citizens scientists, and local, national and regional organizations. Essential biodiversity variables are crucial for the calculation of the indicators to assess progress towards the 2020 targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity. They can also be used to develop scenarios for the future of biodiversity under different development policies.

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