Millions of people around the world rely on the sale of wild species for their livelihoods. Over two-thirds of the world’s industrial roundwood comes from wild tree species, and even non-extractive uses of wild plants, algae, and fungus are major businesses. Tourists who come to see wild animals are a major factor in why protected areas worldwide attract 8 billion visitors each year and earn $600 billion in annual revenue. More than 10,000 wild species are harvested for human food, making sustainable use of wild species critical for food security & improving nutrition in rural and urban areas worldwide. However, millions of plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction due to the worsening global biodiversity crisis.
To find a solution to the worsening crisis of biodiversity that has been unfolding in recent years, the International Science-Policy Platform of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has released an assessment report which offers insights, analysis, and tools that could help establish more sustainable use of wild species of plants, animals, and algae all over the world. The Report aims to achieve sustainable use of wild species in such a way that biodiversity and the proper functioning of ecosystems are preserved while also contributing to the health and happiness of people.
IPBES representatives from the organization’s 139 member states recently approved the assessment report summary presented during the organization’s 9th Session, which took place in Bonn, Germany, from July 3 to July 9, 2022. The Report on the assessment results from four years of research conducted by 85 leading experts from the natural and social sciences and bearers of indigenous and local knowledge. Additionally, the Report received the input of 200 contributing authors who drew from over 6,200 different sources.
The assessment report categorized the utilisation of wild species into five ‘practices’: fishing, gathering, logging, terrestrial animal harvesting (including hunting), and non-extractive practices like observation. Each practice explores various ‘uses’ such as food and feed, materials, medicine, energy, recreation, ritual, learning, and adornment, providing a detailed analysis of trends over the last 20 years. Wild species utilisation has increased significantly; however, sustainability varies, such as for medicine and logging for materials and energy.
Commenting on the good work done on the Report is Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), who said, “Today, one million species are at risk of extinction. And the unsustainable, illegal and unregulated use of species is a large part of the problem. For example, the illegal wildlife trade is a 23-billion-dollar annual business that lines the deep pockets of a few unscrupulous individuals. These people get rich at the expense of nature and ecosystems. This trade also robs countries, indigenous people and local communities of access to their resources and safe livelihoods.”
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), also said, “The IPBES Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species is a stark reminder that human beings are interdependent with all living beings. Millions of people are living in harmony with nature in UNESCO designated sites worldwide, from Biosphere reserves to World heritage sites. This is a wealth of experience and solutions to reconcile and make peace with nature. It is not too late to act, and UNESCO is fully committed to mobilizing the full force of education, science and culture to lead this global transformative change.”
The Report also addresses factors that affect the abundance and distribution of wild species and may heighten stress and difficulties for the human communities that depend on them. These factors include changes to the land and seascape, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species. Over the past forty years, trading in wild species has significantly increased in volume, value, and trade networks. The Report also examines how indigenous peoples and small groups employ wild species, as well as their in-depth knowledge, beliefs, and practices on such usage.
The Report analyses policies and tools that have been applied in various contexts concerning the sustainable use of wild species, and it presents seven key elements that, if scaled up across practices, regions, and sectors, could be used as levers of change to promote the sustainable use of wild species.
To address anticipated future challenges, the Report concludes by examining a variety of potential future scenarios for the use of wild animals and identifies practices and activities for each one. The Report also noted that the world is dynamic and there is a need for a common vision of sustainable use and transformative change in human-nature relationships for sustainable use of wild species.