The Human Side of the UN IPBES Report

The UN IPBES report demonstrates there are currently one million species at risk of extinction so it couldn’t be a more important time to focus on island restoration.

The UN IPBES report laments a frightening statistic: there are one million species on Earth currently at risk of extinction in the coming decades. It has long been suggested by scientists that we are facing Earth’s sixth mass extinction and it is happening at an unprecedented rate. The impacts of this affect human’s as well as wildlife and the root cause of this disconcerting ecological challenge points to everything from climate change to invasive species introduction.  

That is why conservation on islands is so important, now more than ever. An uptick in plastic pollution is now believed to be threatening the wellbeing of almost 50% of marine mammals and seabirds and historically  75% of bird, amphibian, mammal, and reptile extinctions have occurred on islands. The threat placed on the native flora and fauna by invasive species introductions only makes it more challenging to respond adequately to other stressors like plastic pollution and climate change. Thus, removing invasives from islands gives the native species a fighting chance at adapting to these changes. 

Island Conservation’s field team and Palauan Conservation Officers in Kayangel, Palau. Credit: Tommy Hall/Island Conservation

As biodiversity is lost, it isn’t just wildlife that is affected. The degradation of natural systems poses a threat to human health and livelihood as well. As pollinators continue to decline in numbers due to parasites, industrial agriculture, and climate change, we could lose billions of dollars’ worth of crops each year and overfishing is dramatically reducing our fish stocks on which much of the world relies for nutritious food.

This should function as a call to action for policy-makers and individual citizens alike throughout the world. One of the items highest on the agenda according to the UN report is to increase the protection of marine mammals and seabirds through extending the scope of Marine Protected Areas dramatically; currently MPA’s span across less than two percent of Earth’s total surface area.   

Island Conservation field team and partners in Lehua. Credit: Island Conservation

Though the recent UN report might be alarming, there is still a bright spot left to look forward to as it begins to catalyze global change both at grassroots and international levels. There couldn’t be a more crucial time in history to conserve and restore islands for the benefit of wildlife and human beings alike.  

Source: Financial Times
Featured Photo: Ua Huka, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Credit: Jason Zito/Island Conservation

About Stephanie Dittrich

Stephanie Dittrich is a current senior in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a transfer student from De Anza College. She is also currently pursuing a Certificate of Achievement in Geospatial Technologies and a second Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Foothill College. She has worked in multiple marketing and design focused roles at environmental nonprofits as well as the Genomics Institute at UC Santa Cruz. She just finished spending 3 months in Costa Rica conducting field work where she did an independent research project and wrote a scientific paper about flight response time in the Morpho peleides butterfly. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys working on creative photography and design projects, often centered around wildlife photography, as well as more experimental and contemporary subject matter.

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