May 21, 2007 Europe needs more interdisciplinary research in order to face the challenges of biodiversity loss and its sustainable use under global change. This was the message put across by experts at the end of an international conference on European biodiversity research strategy. Dramatic changes are expected above all in agricultural landscapes in the coming years as a result of climate change and the switch to bio energy production.
Another problem mentioned was the slow implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). An effective worldwide system of protected areas is still not in sight, according to the experts.
Back-to-back with the L2L sustainability conference the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) with 70 representatives from science and politicy from 25 European countries met at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) at the beginning of May in Leipzig to discuss future research areas.
One of the aims is to slow down the decline in plant and animal species by 2010 in order to conserve biological diversity as an important resource for the future. With this in mind, the UFZ is involved in EPBRS and is supporting the further development of the IMoSEB process, which is to create an international advisory panel for governments, along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to highlight more effectively the global problem of the decline in biodiversity.
Knut the famous polar bear at Berlin zoo has a lot to do. As a mascot his job is to highlight the dangers of climate change and he is also a symbol for the global decline in animal and plant species and ecosystems. This likewise illustrates the fact that environmental problems can no longer be viewed in isolation, but must increasingly be seen as part of the larger picture.
It is not enough, for instance, to conserve biological diversity only in protected areas – it must also be protected in areas where sustainable use of nature is an issue, in order to do justice to people’s needs regarding nature and its services, such as food production and clean water. Reconciling protection and use is the central concern of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), for which the next Conference of the Parties will take place in Germany in May 2008 under the mascot of Knut the polar bear.
In order to discuss the priority research topics in the area of sustainable use of biodiversity, the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) met at the beginning of May at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig. The platform is composed of members from a large number of European countries and regularly draws up research recommendations at European and national level on biodiversity topics. An important aspect is the collaboration between scientists and experts from the fields of politics and public administration.
In their results, the experts stress that the need for integrated interdisciplinary research involving direct collaboration with politicians and social groups, is more important than ever to meet the new threats to the environment. For instance, the agricultural landscape in Europe and its biodiversity will face completely new challenges as a result of the approaching climate change in combination with the foreseeable steep rise in the cultivation of “energy crops”. The development of policy measures at this level is still dominated by sectoral thinking, whereas in view of the dangers, a greater focus is needed on adaptation strategies that take account of the effects of different environmental threats as well as different social interests.
At the global level too, the focus within biodiversity conservation is increasingly on sustainable use. But there is still no adequate data basis for recording the effects of use and over-exploitation on biodiversity. The resources and political will are as lacking here as they are when it comes to setting up and maintaining the global system of protected areas agreed in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. This means that research can make an important contribution here – in monitoring activities and in developing integrated approaches to biodiversity use.
The political will to be more active at this level too is demonstrated in the Potsdam Initiative on Biological Diversity 2010, which was agreed on by the environment ministers of the G8+5 in March 2007. The initiative takes up many of the key issues connected with the loss of biodiversity and stresses the role of science, e.g. through support for the initiative of a global expert panel on biodiversity following the example of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here, however, a decisive factor remains proactive, integration-driven support for the relevant research – for the sake of the polar bear, mankind and the more than 20 million other species on this earth.
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