CSIRO - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

09/10/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/09/2020 19:30

Balancing the loss of terrestrial biodiversity and feeding the world

Feeding a hungry world has put increasing pressure on our lands, and the native plants and animals that rely on them.

A study published this week in Nature acknowledges the rapid decline in terrestrial biodiversity and looks at seven ways to reverse the declining biodiversity trends.

Conservation efforts have not halted the trends and the study confirmed that, in a business as usual future, demand for land for food, feed and energy provision will increase, putting at risk the myriad of ecosystem services people depend upon.

One of the study's authors, Dr Mario Herrero from Australia's national science agency CSIRO, said the paper confirmed that terrestrial biodiversity was decreasing rapidly as a result of human pressures, largely through habitat loss and degradation due to the conversion of natural habitats to agriculture and forestry. Fellow CSIRO author Dr Simon Ferrier said the study used an ensemble of land-use and biodiversity models, including CSIRO's BILBI biodiversity model, to assess how humanity could reverse terrestrial biodiversity declines due to habitat conversion, a major threat to biodiversity. 'It has shown that an ambitious integrated program of conservation and restoration efforts, along with transforming the food system, can reverse the decline in biodiversity loss from habitat conversion,' Dr Ferrier said.

Dr Herrero said the study found that through further sustainable intensification and trade, reduced food waste, and healthier human diets, more than two thirds of future biodiversity losses could be avoided and the biodiversity trends from habitat conversion could be reversed by 2050 for almost all models used in the research.

The paper, led by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), follows a major report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services last year which found that around one million species are threatened with extinction.

'Immediate efforts, consistent with the broader sustainability agenda but of unprecedented ambition and coordination, may allow the growing human population to be fed while reversing global terrestrial biodiversity trends from habitat conversion,' study lead author and IIASA researcher Dr David Leclère said.

  • Dr Herrero can field queries relating to links between food-system transformation and land use.
  • Dr Ferrier can field queries relating to links between land use and biodiversity.