Pollution, including from chemicals and waste, is a major driver of biodiversity and ecosystem change with especially devastating direct effects on freshwater and marine habitats. Plant and insect populations are dwindling as a result of the persistent usage of highly dangerous, non-selective insecticides.
Marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 animal species, including 86 per cent of marine turtles, 44 per cent of seabirds and 43 per cent of marine mammals. Air and soil pollution are also on the rise.
Globally, nitrogen deposition in the atmosphere is one of the most serious threats to the integrity of global biodiversity. When nitrogen is deposited on terrestrial ecosystems, a cascade of effects can occur, often resulting in overall biodiversity declines.
Reducing air and water pollution and safely managing chemicals and waste is crucial to addressing the nature crisis.
Direct exploitation of natural resources
The recent IPBES report on the sustainable use of wild species reveals that the unsustainable use of plants and animals is not just threatening the survival of one million species around the world but the livelihoods of billions of people who rely on wild species for food, fuel and income.
According to scientists, halting and reversing the degradation of lands and oceans can prevent the loss of one million endangered species. In addition, restoring only 15 per cent of ecosystems in priority areas will improve habitats, thus cutting extinctions by 60 per cent by improving habitats.
Negotiations at COP15 are expected to focus on protecting plants, animals and microbes whose genetic material is the foundation for life-saving medicines and other products. This issue is known as access and benefits sharing governed by an international accord – the Nagoya Protocol.
Delegates at COP15 will be looking at how marginalized communities, including Indigenous Peoples, can benefit from a subsistence economy – a system based on provisioning and regulating services of ecosystems for basic needs. Through their spiritual connection to the land, Indigenous Peoples play a vital protection role as guardians of biodiversity.
Invasive alien species (IAS) are animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms that have entered and established themselves in the environment outside their natural habitat. IAS have devastating impacts on native plant and animal life, causing the decline or even extinction of native species and negatively affecting ecosystems.
The global economy, with increased transport of goods and travel, has facilitated the introduction of alien species over long distances and beyond natural boundaries. The negative effects of these species on biodiversity can be intensified by climate change, habitat destruction and pollution.
IAS have contributed to nearly 40 per cent of all animal extinctions since the 17th century, where the cause is known. Meanwhile, environmental losses from introduced pests in Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States are estimated to reach over US$100 billion per year.
IAS is a global issue that requires international cooperation and action. Preventing the international movement of these species and rapid detection at borders is less costly than control and eradication.
How can you follow COP15?
From December 7-19 in Montreal, Canada, 196 governments will meet to strike a landmark agreement to guide global actions on biodiversity. The framework will need to lay out an ambitious plan that addresses the key drivers of nature loss and puts us on the path to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.