Our understanding of the natural world and the threats posed to its integrity has never been greater. New technologies have allowed us unparalleled insight into the different dimensions of biodiversity, from genomes to biomes. The major pressures on biodiversity are increasingly well-understood – habitat transformation/land-use change, invasive species, pollution, overexploitation including the illegal wildlife trade and climate change – though each of the world’s biomes faces distinct challenges, reflecting particular geographic, ecological and socioeconomic contexts. Biodiversity loss is exacerbated where there is significant inequality in wealth and is a major threat to intergenerational justice. But the political and social will necessary to preserve biological diversity has been lacking. While certain policy responses have demonstrated effectiveness in promoting biodiversity conservation, persistent negative trends in almost every aspect of biodiversity indicate the need for more concerted action. Wildlife populations are thinning, reducing their adaptive potential; current rates of species extinctions are estimated to be orders of magnitude greater than background rates, with some scientists suggesting that we may be entering a sixth mass extinction event, and ecosystems are becoming increasingly degraded.
Increased investment in conservation on a global scale is urgently required. Greater focus on strengthening governance systems; improving policy frameworks through research; integration, implementation and effective enforcement; and encouraging partnerships and participation, are all measures that have the potential to address the greatest pressures on biodiversity. Efforts to combat biodiversity loss must also address poverty eradication, gender inequality, systemic corruption in governance structures and other social variables. The path to conserving global biodiversity and to finding solutions for sustainable use is a long but critical journey; humankind depends on it to support nature’s contributions to people and the flourishing of health and development.