Gambia: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functions and Services!

Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary.

The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global. Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. It is the first intergovernmental Report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.

Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

Biodiversity and ecosystem function are fundamental parts of life on the planet and are determinant components of ecosystem services, which largely affect human society. Biodiversity (biological diversity) is a key factor to maintain primary and secondary productivity and ecosystem stability, to modulate the movements and fluxes of nutrients, material, and energy across ecosystems and habitats, which are all crucial parts of ecosystem functioning. Integrating the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning can enhance our capability to anticipate changes in ecosystem services under the impacts of multiple stressors across ecoregions, including climate changes.

Biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and ecosystem services together maintain environmental health and provide indispensable benefits to humanity, as they are able to provide plant productivity, clean water, healthy food, and fresh air, and suppress disease-causing microorganisms. Connections and mutual benefits among natural environment, biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health and wellbeing have been thoroughly explored and assessed, with great potential for further investigation into the mechanisms that deliver such reciprocal benefits.

However, the challenges we are facing are the fact that multiple environmental stressors at both local and global scales reduce biodiversity and cause ecosystem degradation, and the information available to link biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and services to human health is limited. Anthropogenic global disturbances, such as climate warming, land-use change and habitat loss, soil erosion, primary productivity reduction, infectious disease epidemic, and invasive species, have been impacting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, as well as causing the reduction of ecosystem services. It is urgent to enhance more in-depth interdisciplinary, collaborative research on relationships of biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services, and human health, and to gain a more robust understanding of interactive mechanisms of their effects on environmental and human health.

Promoting robustness of biodiversity and ecological complexity of ecosystem functioning represents ecosystem services’ enhancement so that to increase the ability to benefit human health. Such ecosystem services’ enhancing environmental and human health can be obtained through ecologic restoration to recover health capacities, environmental protection to reduce the negative effects of climate change, and sustainable ecosystem management (maintenance) to support environmental perception.

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