SHARM EL-SHEIKH – Unregulated conversion of forests, rangelands and other natural areas such as wetlands are detrimental to Africa’s biodiversity, which provides essential goods and services to the continent’s people.
This is contained in a just-released Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Africa, conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) this year.
Distributed to delegates at the 14th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD Cop 14), which started in the Egyptian coastal resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday, the report says unregulated conversion of forests, rangelands, wetlands for food production, and urbanisation in Africa is taking place at a fast pace, due to rapid transformation of African societies.
“Such conversion leads to habitat loss and fragmentation, degradation of water catchments, and soil erosion, leading to loss of biodiversity and livelihoods,” said the report.
IPBES states that the assessments’ key messages are that Africa’s natural assets are unique in that the continent’s extraordinary richness in biodiversity, ecosystem services, and wealth of indigenous and local knowledge comprises a strategic asset for sustainable development in this part of the world.
“Africa is the last place on Earth with a significant assemblage of large mammals. Africa has significant regional, sub-regional and national variations in biodiversity that reflect climate and physical differences, as well as the continent’s long and varied history of human interactions with the environment,” IPBES has found.
The report reveals that Africa’s rich and diverse ecosystems generate flows of goods and services that are essential in providing for the continent’s food, water, energy, health and secure livelihoods needs.
To support this, IPBES imparts that more than 62 percent of Africa’s population depends directly on these services in rural areas, while urban and peri-urban population supplement their incomes, energy, medicine, and other essentials from ecosystem-based resources.
It has also been found that the full story of Africa’s endowment by nature is yet to be told and, as a result, the true value of biodiversity’s contributions to the human well-being is under-appreciated in decision-making processes.
This, says the report, is because the study of nature’s contribution to people is still in its infancy. For instance, the number of published studies on the valuation of ecosystem services in Africa relatively low.
IPBES’ report says there are also some indirect drivers of biodiversity loss in Africa, namely: population growth, inappropriate economic policies and technologies, poaching, and illegal wildlife trade. Failure to address these underlying causes of biodiversity will continue to threaten or undermine efforts to protect biodiversity and improve the quality of life of the people of Africa through conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits from natural resources.
“Africa’s current population of 1.25 billion is likely to double by 2050, putting severe pressure on the continent’s biodiversity and nature contributions to people, unless appropriate policies and strategies are adopted and effectively implemented,’’ said the report.
Because Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, this global challenge is likely to result in significant losses of many African plant species, some animal species, and a decline in the productivity of fisheries in inland waters of Africa during the 21st century.
The report said Africa’s marine and coastal environments are also of significant ecological and socio-economic importance to the continent – and they are also an immense threat from human activities.
The Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Africa was carried out by 127 selected experts, including seven early career fellows, assisted by 23 contributing authors, primarily from Africa, who have analysed a large body of knowledge, including about 2 400 scientific publications.
The assessment analyses the direct and underlying causes for the observed changes in biodiversity and in nature’s contribution to people.
IPBES’ objective is to provide governments, the private sector, and civil society with scientific, credible and independent up-to-date assessments of available knowledge to make informed decisions at the local regional and international level.
IPBES is an inter-governmental body that assesses the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services in response to requests from governments, the private sector, and the civil society. It has a collaborative partnership arrangement with the United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations, Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, and the United Nations Development Programme.
IPBES’ Secretariat is hosted by the German government, and it is located at the United Nations Campus in Bonn.