The authors are Co-Chairs of the IPBES Assessment of the Sustainable Use of Wild Species
– You probably use wild species far more often than you realise. For many people, especially in more developed economies, the use of wild species sounds like something quite removed from their everyday lives – something perhaps more relevant to other people, in other countries.
It is a fact, however, that the use of wild species is a vital part of almost every human community. If you eat fish, they are most likely wild species. When you take cough medication, it’s likely to be derived, in part, from wild plants. Your wooden furniture may once have been a wild tree. Even the joy and inspiration you get from nature, such wildlife watching, is another use of wild species.
The 2019 Global Assessment Report by IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) alerted the world that direct exploitation is one of the main reasons that 1 million species of plants and animals now face extinction – many within decades. This should have been a wake-up call. Our human behavior is harming wild species, some of which we have relied on for centuries to provide nutrition, clothing, shelter, and more.
In other words, we use wild species to meet a wide range of human needs. By damaging them, we are also harming ourselves – and the policies and decisions we make about the use of wild species have consequences for our health, food security, livelihoods and general wellbeing.
This doesn’t mean that we have to stop eating fish entirely, give up on cough medication or find other materials for our homes – but what is needed, urgently, is better information and knowledge together with stronger institutions to ensure that our use of wild species is sustainable.
For this reason, four years ago, nearly 140 Governments tasked 85 leading experts, from every region of the word, with preparing a landmark new IPBES assessment report on the sustainable use of wild species – to help inform decisions about nature by governments, businesses, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities – in fact by everyone whose choices and actions impact nature.
In the first week of July, this report – drawing on more than 6,200 sources, will be considered by the member States of IPBES. Once accepted, it will become the go-to resource to inform policy options and actions to promote the more sustainable use of wild species from the global to the national and even the very local scale.
One of the things that sets this report apart is the extent to which it draws on the expertise and experiences not only of the natural and social sciences – but also of indigenous peoples and local communities. For many local communities, the use of wild species is inextricably entwined with their culture and identity – with customs and practices evolved over millennia to ensure sustainable use.
The report will also have very immediate real-world relevance. Having been specifically requested by, among others, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it will directly inform the decisions of the 19th World Wildlife Conference in Panama in November 2022.
Additionally, it will be taken up by the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in the negotiations later this year of the new global biodiversity framework for the next decade. The sustainable use of wild species is also closely related to our ability to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to deal with other global challenges such as land use and climate change.
Among the most important aspects of this new IPBES report is just how vital the sustainable use of wild species is to everyone – everywhere, in the face of multiple global environmental crises. It will offer better information and options for solutions that work – for people and the rest of nature.
Dr. Marla R. Emery is a Scientific Advisor with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and retired Research Geographer with the US Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Jean-Marc Fromentin is a Researcher at the French Research Institute for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), Deputy Director of the MARBEC research Unit.
Prof. John Donaldson is an independent biodiversity consultant and previously Chief Director Biodiversity Research, Assessment and Monitoring at the South African National Biodiversity Institute.