Charlie Cooper was formerly Media Relations Manager at Fauna & Flora International
Welcome to the first edition of Nature News Round-up, a new weekly rundown of some of the most important and engaging news stories, long reads and reports focusing on biodiversity and international conservation.
We’ll be highlighting the best articles on the big topics, but also the niche stories that you might have missed.
This week, with the new year well under way, the world appears to be recognising, as never before, the seriousness of the crisis facing nature. The big question: is this the year we’ll see tangible, global political change to reverse it?
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual Global Risks Report 2022 was published last week – and places ‘biodiversity loss’ among its top three most severe risks facing the planet, alongside ‘climate action failure’ and ‘extreme weather.’ The report is based on nearly 1,000 survey responses from within the WEF’s stakeholder and professional community. Biodiversity loss was recognised as having “irreversible consequences for the environment, humankind, and economic activity, and a permanent destruction of natural capital.”
The risk is recognised but what about the action? There’s renewed talk at the start of 2022 that this could finally be the ‘super year’ for nature policymaking that we’ve been waiting for. It should at least be the year that the long-delayed UN biodiversity summit in Kunming finally happens. The all-important, in-person phase of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is due to take place from April 25 to May 8 in Kunming, China, although a further delay is still looking likely.
Nature has a new editorial looking at some of the main policy and research considerations in biodiversity’s “make or break year”. A draft CBD agreement – billed by some as a ‘Paris-style agreement for nature’ – was published last year, with the ’30 by 30’ goal to protect 30% of land and ocean by 2030 at its heart. This week more than 50 leading scientists argue that this ambition will be useful, if done well, but much more is needed to turn the tide of biodiversity loss. Patrick Greenfield in the Guardian has more.
Reef scenic, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Credit Zafer Kizilkayer
The summit has the potential to be the most influential of several major international summits this year. From March 7 – 12 we are expecting the first African Protected Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, Rwanda; The UN Ocean Conference takes place from June 27 to July 3 in Lisbon, Portugal; and from November 14 – 25, Panama City will host the 19th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
A bit of good news: new research suggests giraffe numbers have increased across Africa, Douglas Main reports for National Geographic . A study published in Imperilled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation, estimates the total giraffe population to be around 117,000, up by around 20 percent on where it was in 2015, Main writes. There has been genuine population growth in some areas, according to Julian Fennessy of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, but the increase is also partly down to more accurate census data.
Damian Carrington in the Guardian covers a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, which concludes that chemical pollution has exceeded the so-called planetary boundary, “the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.” Plastic pollution is of particular concern. Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth of the University of Gothenburg tells the paper that the total mass of plastics “now exceeds the total mass of all living mammals.” The article notes growing calls for international action on chemicals and plastics (a topic that Axios also covered this week.)
The Financial Times’ Gideon Long has this worrying report from Venezuela on the multiple threats facing one of the most biodiverse nations on Earth, as exploitation of natural resources ramps up, driving deforestation in an area of the Amazon that has hitherto fared better than forests in neighbouring countries like Brazil.
The conservation movement saw the loss of three great figures within just a few days of each other between the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. It’s well worth reading Patrick Greenfield’s write-up in the Guardian of tributes from people in our field who were inspired by naturalist E.O. Wilson; conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy; and conservationist and anthropologist Richard Leakey. Also worth noting, as Greenfield writes: “colleagues and family members say that despite rising extinctions and growing environmental destruction, Wilson, Lovejoy and Leakey remained optimistic. Lovejoy’s daughters and granddaughters paid tribute to his belief that our species would ‘figure it out’.” So stay positive.
Edward O. Wilson, known as the ‘father of biodiversity’. Credit Jim Harrison/PLoS
Finally, take a moment for this beautiful piece of writing in The Atlantic, from Alan Lightman, on the ways that technology is sundering our innate feeling of belonging in nature, and why it matters that we all do that we can to get it back.
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