UN biodiversity experts said Friday that the rampant exploitation of nature poses a threat to the well-being of billions of people around the world who depend on wild species for food, energy and income.
From fishing and logging to using wild plants in medicine and perfume, societies across the planet use species that have not been tamed or bred, with annual legal and illegal global trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
But as humans cause alarming biodiversity loss – and climate change threatens to accelerate destruction – the United Nations Scientific Advisory Group on Biodiversity, IPBES, has called for “transformative changes” in our relationship with wild species.
The IPBES, which previously warned that one million species are at risk of extinction, said stopping over-exploitation is “critical to reversing the global trend in biodiversity decline” and praised the critical role of indigenous communities in protecting nature.
Its report, written by dozens of indigenous experts and consultants, and approved by 139 member states, comes as the United Nations leads an international operation to protect nature from human destruction in the coming decades.
“The use of wild species is critical to humanity and nature,” Jean-Marc Fromentin, co-chair of the platform’s report, told AFP, adding that it was a “key issue for food security.”
UN experts estimate that “about 40 percent of humanity” depends in some way on wild species, and “it’s much bigger than you think,” he said.
food and fuel
Overall, 50,000 species are used in food, energy, medicine, materials and other purposes worldwide, with more than 10,000 different species harvested for human consumption, the report said.
The report said wild plants, algae and fungi provide food and income for one in five people globally, while about 2.4 billion people depend on wood for cooking.
The Intergovernmental Platform estimates that 70 percent of the world’s poor depend directly on wild species and associated businesses.
But they are not the only people.
“City dwellers in wealthy nations may not notice it, but wild plants are used in medicine or cosmetics, you eat wild fish and there’s a good chance your furniture comes from wild trees,” Frumentin said.
Even foraging remains an important activity for people in North America and Europe, with significantly high rates in Eastern Europe, according to the research, which said there is an “increasing demand for wild foods” for upscale restaurants.
The global market for these species is a big business.
Wild trees account for two-thirds of the world’s industrial roundwood, while the trade in wild plants, algae and fungi is a multibillion dollar industry.
But global trade can decouple from sustainable supply, with growing demand threatening species and ecosystems, and the report said there was an “urgent” need for effective policies adapted to local needs.
One major issue is the illegal trade in wild species, estimated to be worth between $69 billion and $199 billion annually, which IPBES said is the third largest illegal market after human and drug trafficking.
While this largely targets trees and fish, the report said even smaller-scale trade in rare animals and plants, such as orchids, can have devastating effects.
This trade “deprives countries, indigenous people and local communities of access to their own resources and secure livelihoods,” said Inger Andersen, head of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Letting the natural world thrive is better business.
Tourism that relies on monitoring wildlife was a major reason protected areas globally received eight billion visitors and generated $600 billion annually before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, well-managed fisheries often increase in abundance.
For example, Atlantic bluefin tuna were caught on edge due to the explosion of demand for the sashimi market in the 1980s.
At first “the scientific advice had little weight against fisheries lobbyists and national interests,” the Tribune said, but the new strategy launched in 2007 succeeded in rebuilding the population.
She said that overexploitation in general is the main threat to land marine species, as well as the main threat to land and freshwater ecosystems.
The platform called for policies that support the land rights of indigenous peoples, who hold responsibility for vast areas rich in biodiversity, often underestimated or pushed back from their traditional homelands in the past.
The report said much can be learned from Aboriginal societies, including various ways to measure the health of the species, such as the amount of caribou fat, or the changing flavor of fish.
Co-author John Donaldson said the process of integrating original knowledge with more science-based research was “very straightforward”.
The report urged a view of humanity “as a member or citizen of nature among others”.
The perception in many societies that humans are separate from and in control of nature, she said, “has led to major environmental crises, such as climate change and biodiversity degradation.”
The United Nations warns that the world is missing all the goals to save nature
© 2022 AFP
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