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New species extinction target proposed for global nature rescue plan - University College London

The upcoming future strategy for conserving biodiversity must include a prominent target to lower extinction rates, according to group including UCL scientists.

Biodiversity loss has continued unabated at an alarming rate, and so far, action to deliver on the global agreements in place has failed to prevent further declines. Strong science-based action is needed, the scientists argue, driven through the recognition of a prominent biodiversity target, comparable to that of the two-degree climate target.

In proposals published today in the journal Science, conservation experts are suggesting a long-term goal to reduce species extinctions towards natural rates, with an easily measurable objective of fewer than 20 extinctions a year.

It would apply to all described species across the major taxonomic groups (fungi, plants, invertebrates and vertebrates) and ecosystem types, whether freshwater, marine or terrestrial.

Report co-author Professor Dame Georgina Mace (UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research) said: “There are many ways to record biodiversity loss but we argue here that extinction is special. Once a species has gone, it has gone forever, and with it goes all the exquisite adaptations and interactions that it has developed, often over millions of years.”

Much of the failure to make progress on existing biodiversity goals and targets can be attributed to a lack of mainstreaming of biodiversity in public policy, and limitations in raising the profile of species loss for politicians and the public. The post-2020 stage has become vital to define an agenda which offers solutions to biodiversity loss.

With the irreplaceable loss of a species being simple to assess and communicate, having this scientifically defensible prominent target will help to galvanise both policy and public support for nature, as well as continuing to support the overall goals of the CBD.

Professor Richard Gregory (UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research and RSPB) said: “We need a ‘North Star’ for nature. A bright, visible destination for global society to move towards so that we bend the curve of biodiversity loss from the top down, and bottom up, recovering species populations by protecting and restoring our vital ecosystems.”

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