UN launches supreme science panel for biodiversity

Modelled on the UN's climate change panel (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, will harness the expertise of thousands of scientists worldwide.

"The IPCC shows how crucial it is to have a coherent scientific view of something as complex as climate or biodiversity," said Lucien Chabason yesterday, a researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris.

"We urgently need to close the gap between policy making and science," he told AFP.
Some experts say eroding ecosystems and dwindling biodiversity pose as great a threat to life on Earth -- including human life -- as climate change.

Whether due to habitat loss and pollution, or indirectly through global warming and the spread of invasive species, humans are squarely to blame for what may be the first major die-off since the dinosaurs disappeared, they say.

"There have been five major episodes of extinction over the last 500 million years, and there are many indications that we have entered a sixth," said Chabason.

The current die-off pace is 100 to 1,000 times higher than average.A fifth of mammals, 30 per cent of amphibians, 12 per cent of known birds, and more than a quarter of reef-building corals -- upon which half-a-billion people depend for livelihood -- face extinction, are threatened.

The IPBES will also quantify damage inflicted on life-sustaining ecosystems long taken for granted, from depleted water tables to deracinated mangroves to rivers and air poisoned by pesticides and pollution.

"It will allow scientists around the globe to address key questions facing governments on the relation between biodiversity and economic development," said Salavatore Arico, an expert at UNESCO.

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