Newswise — A University of Portsmouth academic has contributed to landmark reports that highlight the options to protect and restore nature and its vital contributions to people.

Biodiversity – the essential variety of life forms on Earth – continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being.

This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere, according to four landmark science reports, written by more than 550 leading experts, from over 100 countries, including Dr Pierre Failler from the University of Portsmouth.

The IPBES Regional Assessment Reports on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services were approved by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), in Medellín, Colombia last week.

Dr Failler, a Reader in Economics, contributed to the Africa assessment as the coordinating lead author, with Robert Kasisi from the University of Montreal (UQAM), of chapter 2 ‘Nature’s contributions to people and quality of life’. This chapter was dedicated to the valuation of nature contribution to people and the assessment of the value of ecosystem services. Dr Failler has also contributed to the development of the concept of Nature’s contribution to people and was co-author of the seminal paper in 2015 in Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability and the more recent paper in Science January 2018. 

Dr Failler said: “Governments have to take biodiversity loss at the same level of importance, or even at a higher level, than climate change, as the loss of natural capital is one of the reasons of the escalation of both climate change causes and impacts. Biodiversity should be at the forefront of any national and international policies, especially with regards to economics and trade. Inter-disciplinary research should be encouraged to provide scientific evidence of economic, social and ecological interactions that can be beneficial to humanity.”  

The result of three years of work, the four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services cover the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, as well as Europe and Central Asia – the entire planet except the poles and the open oceans.

In every region, with the exception of a number of positive examples where lessons can be learned, biodiversity and nature’s capacity to contribute to people are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures – habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species and climate change, among others.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives,” said the Chair of IPBES, Sir Robert Watson, “Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy. They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life. The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead. Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”

In the Americas, rich biodiversity makes an immense contribution to the quality of life, helping to reduce poverty while strengthening economies and livelihoods.

The economic value of the Americas’ land-based nature’s contributions to people is estimated to be more than US$24 trillion per year – equivalent to the region’s GDP, yet almost two-thirds – 65 per cent – of these contributions are in decline, with 21 per cent declining strongly. Human-induced climate change, which affects temperature, precipitation and the nature of extreme events, is increasingly driving biodiversity loss and the reduction of nature’s contributions to people, worsening the impact of habitat degradation, pollution, invasive species and the overexploitation of natural resources.”

According to the report, under a ‘business as usual’ scenario, climate change will be the fastest growing driver negatively impacting biodiversity by 2050 in the Americas, becoming comparable to the pressures imposed by land use change. On average today, the populations of species in an area are about 31 per cent smaller than was the case at the time of European settlement. With the growing effects of climate change added to the other drivers, this loss is projected to reach 40 per cent by 2050.

The report highlights the fact that indigenous people and local communities have created a diversity of polyculture and agroforestry systems, which have increased biodiversity and shaped landscapes. However, the decoupling of lifestyles from the local environment has eroded, for many, their sense of place, language and indigenous local knowledge. More than 60 per cent of the languages in the Americas, and the cultures associated with them, are troubled or dying out.

Read the full IPBES press announcement with further information about the four assessment reports here.


Notes for editors:

  1. Three years in development, at a total cost of about US$5 million, the IPBES Regional Assessment Reports on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services involved the review of several thousand scientific papers, as well as extensive Government and other information sources, including indigenous and local knowledge, to arrive at conclusions about each region's land-based, freshwater and coastal biodiversity, as well as the state of ecosystem functioning and nature's contributions to people. Together they represent the most important expert contribution of the past decade to understanding of nature and its contributions to people, offering a roadmap for future action.

IPBES has released the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of each of the four reports. The SPMs present the key messages and policy options from each assessment, as approved by the IPBES Plenary. To access the SPMs go to

  1. Often described as the “IPCC for biodiversity” IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body comprising 129 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. For more information about IPBES and its assessments visit
  2. The University of Portsmouth is a progressive and dynamic university with an outstanding reputation for innovative teaching and globally significant research and innovation. It was rated 'Gold' in the UK government's Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and was ranked in the top 150 under 50 in the world according to the Times Higher Education rankings. The University is also in the top 40 in the Guardian’s 2017 league table and is ranked number one in the UK for boosting graduate salaries according to The Economist. The University's research and innovation culture is impacting lives today and in the future and addressing local, national and global challenges across science, technology, humanities, business and creative industries.

For further information:

Glenn Harris, Senior Media Manager (Research Themes), University of Portsmouth, Tel: 023 9284 2728, email: [email protected]

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Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Plenary Session March 2018