Lancaster University: Major intergovernmental report on sustainability of wild species announced

A Lancaster University professor is one of the leading experts behind a major new intergovernmental report that outlines the actions needed to ensure the sustainable use of wild species people rely on for daily life.

Billions of people, in developed and developing nations, benefit daily from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicine, recreation, inspiration and many other vital contributions to human well-being. The accelerating global biodiversity crisis, with a million species of plants and animals facing extinction, threatens these contributions to people.

A new report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) offers insights, analysis and tools to establish more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, fungi and algae around the world. Sustainable use is when biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are maintained while contributing to human well-being.

The IPBES Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species is the result of four years of work by 85 leading experts from the natural and social sciences, and holders of indigenous and local knowledge, as well as 200 contributing authors, drawing on more than 6,200 sources. The summary of the Report was approved this week by representatives of the 139 member States of IPBES in Bonn, Germany.

Professor Christina Hicks, a coordinating lead author of the report, who attended the IPBES negotiations in Bonn, said: “We don’t often think about wild species, yet most of us use them in some way or another, whether we eat wild fish or berries, or enjoy a walk in the woods.

“But, wild species are undoubtedly under threat from climate, demographic, and markets changes. I am hopeful that this assessment will lead to some profound shifts in how we think about and govern wild species. Through working with scientists, indigenous peoples, and governments from around the world, we have produced a truly collective and urgent vision for more equitable, inclusive, and effective policy for the sustainable use of wild species.”

The Report identifies five broad categories of ‘practices’ in the use of wild species: fishing; gathering; logging; terrestrial animal harvesting (including hunting); and non-extractive practices. For each practice, it then examines specific ‘uses’ such as for food and feed; materials; medicine, energy; recreation; ceremony; learning and decoration – providing a detailed analysis of the trends in each, over the past 20 years. In most cases, use of wild species has increased, but the sustainability of their use has varied, such as in gathering for medicine and logging for materials and energy.

As part of its analysis, the Report explores policies and tools that have been used in a variety of contexts relating to the sustainable use of wild species. Seven key elements are presented, that could be used as levers of change to promote sustainable use of wild species if they are scaled-up across practices, regions and sectors:

· Comprehensive and participatory decision making

· Inclusion of multiple forms of knowledge and recognition of rights

· Equitable distribution of costs & benefits

· Policies tailored to local social and ecological contexts

· Monitoring of social and ecological conditions and practices

· Coordinated and aligned policies

· Robust institutions, from customary to statutory

The Report concludes by examining a range of possible future scenarios for the use of wild species, confirming that climate change, increasing demand and technological advances -making many extractive practices more efficient – are likely to present significant challenges to sustainable use in the future. Actions are identified for each practice that would help to address these challenges.

Often described as the “IPCC for biodiversity”, IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body comprising 139 member Governments. Established by Governments in 2012, it provides policymakers with objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the contributions they make to people, as well as the tools and methods to protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets.