The quick decline in the world's nature & solutions for the agricultural sector

This article will elaborate on the contents of the IPBES report, and point out the solutions for agriculture
The quick decline in the world's nature & solutions for the agricultural sector

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

Global Assessment Report

The report is compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years. It also has inputs from another 310 contributing authors. The paper evaluates changes over the past five decades. It provides an inclusive picture of the relationship between economic development trails and their impacts on nature. It also offers different possible scenarios for decades to come. 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 their communities.

Transformation is needed

The report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, of which many within decades. This is more than ever before in the history of humankind. The report also presents a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between various sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others. In this article we will focus on key solutions for the agricultural sector. If you are interested in reading all you can consult the main report.

Key findings about agriculture

The report lists (among others) the following key statistics about the agricultural sector:

  • a 300%: increase in food crop production has taken place since 1970
  • 23%: land areas have seen a reduction in productivity due to land degradation
  • >75%: global food crop types rely on animal pollination
  • 100 million hectares of agricultural expansion took place in the tropics from 1980 to 2000, which mainly consists of cattle ranching in Latin America (+/-42 million ha), and plantations in Southeast Asia (+/-7.5 million ha, of which 80% oil palm), half of it at the expense of intact forests
  • >33% of the world’s land surface (and +/-75% of freshwater resources) are devoted to crop or livestock production
  • 12% of the world’s ice-free land is used for crop production
  • 25% of the world’s ice-free land is used for grazing (+/-70% of drylands)
  • +/-25% of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by land clearing, crop production and fertilization, with animal-based food contributing 75% to that figure

Solutions in the agricultural sector

In agriculture, the following solution can help to promote good agricultural and agroecological practices and therefore reduce the degradation of nature.

  • multifunctional landscape planning. This provides food security, livelihood opportunities, maintenance of species and ecological functions at the same time.
  • cross-sectoral integrated management.
  • Deeper engagement of all actors throughout the food system. 

This last point consists of the following components:

  • producers, the public sector, civil society and consumers)
  • a more integrated landscape and watershed management
  • conservation of the diversity of genes, varieties, cultivars, breeds, landraces and species
  • approaches that empower consumers and producers through market transparency,
  • improved distribution and localization (that revitalizes local economies),
  • reformed supply chains and reduced food waste.

Please find the full report here.

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