Eden no more

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Science Advances  06 May 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 5, eaax7492
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax7492

Thomas E. Lovejoy

The first official report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), released on May 6th in Paris, provides the first modern authoritative assessment of planetary biodiversity and related contributions of nature to people (CNP)–dubbed ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are those charities of nature, both nebulous and tangible, that serve as the backbone of human well-being: food, fresh water, clean air, wood, fiber, genetic resources, and medicine.

The IPBES is being called the IPCC of Biodiversity, with the IPCC referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the recognized assembly of the United Nations created in 1988 to provide global leaders with regular scientific assessment of the implications and risks of climate change. The IPBES, founded in 2012, came slow on the heels of the IPCC for a variety of reasons but in large part because grappling with, gathering data for, and analyzing the myriad features of global biodiversity and ecosystem services are astoundingly complex endeavors.

A scientific assessment of the state of biodiversity and ecosystems services in the context of climate reveals that all are inextricably intertwined, united yet dispersed, invaluable yet monetizable, reflecting nature in its holistic role as the bedrock of human civilization. The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment served as an early appraisal of the state of life on Earth. The IPBES synthesis is today’s report card, and it tells a short story: Eden is gone. While the planetary garden still exists, it is in deep disrepair, frayed and fragmented almost beyond recognition.

Not unexpectedly, the specific findings are depressing. More species …

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