Biodiversity disappears


World Biodiversity Council issues warning about species extinction

According to a warning issued in May 2019 by the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) in its first global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, between 0.5 and 1 million of the world’s approximately 8 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. Several researchers from Bern collaborated on this report, some of them assuming leading positions.


The current rate of species extinction is continuously accelerating and is already 10 to 100 times higher than the average of the past 10 million years. The first global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services cites overuse of land and sea, depletion of natural resources, climate change, pollution and invasive species as reasons. This dramatic situation has enormous consequences for human existence: Substantial declines have already been found in 14 of the 18 most crucial services that nature provides to humankind – including pollination and air quality.

Did you know?

"Along with climate change, intensive land use, the use of pesticides and intense nitrogen fertilization are the major direct drivers of the loss in biodiversity."

Over the past 30 years, the burden on nature has shifted significantly from industrialized to developing countries. “Switzerland must therefore not only consider its own territory in its measures, but must also assume co-responsibility for global efforts,” says Andreas Heinimann from the Centre for Development and Environment CDE and the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern, who was the only Swiss scientist among the lead authors to have collaborated on a chapter of the report.

Agreed objectives are far from being achieved

Most of the internationally agreed biodiversity targets (Aichi targets for 2020) will not be achieved. For the IPBES report, the researchers for the first time calculated future scenarios up to 2050 for the individual regions of the world. Even if there is a speedy change toward more sustainability, the decline in biodiversity and the associated regulatory ecosystem services can only be slowed down but not stopped. The use of nature in the form of food, feed, wood and bioenergy will increase further. But if the world continues as it is to date – with a continued fast increase in consumption and population –, the negative effects will be incredibly serious, particularly in South America, Africa and Asia.

Did you know?

"Switzerland has the largest proportion of endangered species in Western Europe."

The IPBES report makes it clear that a transformative change in our societies and in the way we treat nature is necessary to secure our livelihoods long term. “The unchecked loss in biodiversity is not just an extremely important environmental topic. The future well-being of people and sustainable development are also only possible with intact biodiversity,” says Professor Markus Fischer from the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern, member of the IPBES Council of Experts and co-head of the IPBES report on Europe and Central Asia. Fischer stresses: "We need rethinking and the corresponding decisions in all areas of society."


Most comprehensive report to date

The IPBES report from May 2019 is the most comprehensive global assessment on the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services to date. The 1,700-page report was written by 150 authors. It was based on 15,000 published studies and improved and refined by over 20,000 comments from researchers and governments.  

Andreas Heinimann from the University of Bern was the only Swiss scientist among the lead authors of the report. Two other researchers from Bern took part in the national media conference of the Swiss Academy of Sciences and the University of Bern on the IPBES report: Markus Fischer, Professor at the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern and a member of the IPBES Council of Experts, as well as Eva Spehn of the Biodiversity Forum of the Academy of Sciences, member of the Swiss IPBES delegation and coordinator of the Swiss IPBES platform, as well as co-head of the international project office of the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) and member of the Institute of Plant Sciences of the University of Bern.