IPBES: global collaboration on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Featured, News, Press | 0 comments


David Inouye is the incoming Ecological Society of America President. He is currently working on the IPBES Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production assessment. He explains the importance of IPBES in a guest editorial in the September 2014 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment which is reproduced below.



IPBES: global collaboration on biodiversity and ecosystem services

By David W Inouye

Ecologists conducted the research that has led to our understanding and appreciation of the biological and economic values of biodiversity. Our studies have also provided insights into how biodiversity and ecosystem services are being affected by human activities. This knowledge is now widely accepted in our profession, but we have been less successful in communicating the importance of these issues to the general public. Incorporating this knowledge into the political process so it feeds back into management decisions has been even more challenging.

Following on the largely successful model of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – an international collaboration to study the scientific, technical, and socioeconomic aspects of human-induced climate change – a new intergovernmental body has recently emerged to review, assess, and critically evaluate available information about the state of the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems, and the essential services they provide to society.

The roots of this effort go back to 2007, after which it quickly expanded to include both governmental and stakeholder participants, and elements of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Subsequent intergovernmental and stakeholder meetings in Malaysia, Kenya, and South Korea resulted in the decision to establish an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES; www.ipbes.net). In 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution that required the UN Environment Programme to create IPBES as an independent intergovernmental body, and meetings during the next 2 years in Nairobi and Panama accomplished this task. Formally chartered in April 2012, IPBES is open to all member countries of the UN, and now has 118 members.

Spurred in part by concern about reports of declining pollinator populations in several parts of the world, IPBES recently initiated its first assessment: a fast-track thematic assessment of pollinators, pollination, and food production. It will evaluate recent changes in pollination as a regulating ecosystem service of importance for food production, in the context of its role in supporting a good quality of life as well as in biodiversity maintenance. Sixty-three participants – representing academia, government agencies, museums and herbaria, and industry – from 29 countries met for 5 days in Germany this summer to begin work on the six chapters that will constitute the group’s final report. This is the first of several efforts that have the objective of strengthening the science–policy interface of biodiversity and ecosystem services with regard to both thematic and methodological issues. Future assessments will consider land degradation and restoration, invasive alien species and their control, and sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity. Policy support tools, methodologies for scenario analysis, and modeling of biodiversity and ecosystem services will also be addressed, as will conceptualization of the value of biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people.

I’m very pleased that the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and its membership are playing important roles in IPBES. For example, ESA Past-President Ann Bartuska (Deputy Under Secretary for the US Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area) is involved as an IPBES leader. Subscribers to ECOLOG-L will have seen the latest calls for ecologists to participate in the IPBES assessments, given that ESA is managing the process of recruiting participants from the US. At the 2014 ESA Annual Meeting, there was a special session presenting an overview of IPBES, and two workshops about possibilities for participation and the ongoing pollination assessment. Two participants in the pollination project are ESA members, and other ESA members should consider nominating themselves or others for the additional assessments that IPBES will undertake soon. This is a great chance to collaborate with a very international group of colleagues. Some of you may be called upon to serve as reviewers as the reports are drafted, and I hope you will agree if you’re asked to contribute your expertise.

Just as the IPCC has had a huge effect on the science of climate change and policy related to it, I think IPBES has the potential to expand greatly – on a global scale – society’s appreciation of the importance and value of biodiversity and ecosystem services. IPBES also offers the chance to strengthen the capacity for effective use of science in policy making and decision making worldwide. Many ecologists are looking to broaden the impact of their disciplinary science expertise, either to satisfy requirements associated with federal funding or as one of their personal goals; hopefully, ESA members will take advantage of the golden opportunity that IPBES offers to apply their disciplinary skills in a policy framework.

Citation: David W Inouye 2014. IPBES: global collaboration on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 371–371. http://www.esajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1890/1540-9295-12.7.371

Photo Credit: Elizabeth A. Sellers.

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