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African biodiversity, heritage under pressure

Climate disruption, population growth and the race for resources are threatening the continent, where people still depend heavily on nature.


African biodiversity, heritage under pressure
It is estimated that 500,000 km of land is already degraded due to over-exploitation, without counting urbanization. (Image credit: Pexels)

The loss of biodiversity in Africa is reflected more on the daily lives and night at developing socio-economic, the diagnosis established by the Intergovernmental Platform Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and made public on Friday, March 23 in Medellin, Colombia, on the occasion of its sixth plenary session, describes bluntly the paradox of the continent.

It is still home to an extraordinary biological diversity, it is the last place on Earth where many species of large mammals live, but presents a very high risk of extinction of species and land degradation, due to climate disruption, demographic pressure and a frantic race to appropriate resources, as per Le Monde.

But in no region of the world are humans as dependent on nature for their daily survival. "More than 62 percent of the population is directly dependent on nature's services in rural areas," says the scientists who wrote the 45 page summary for policymakers, as per Le Monde.

Created in 2012 under the supervision of the United Nations and bringing 129 states together, the IPBES, often referred to as the "IPCC of biodiversity" , with reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has a mission to enlighten governments by regularly synthesizing scientific knowledge. In Medellin, it was proposed for the first time, regional assessments for four continents America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.

According to Le Monde, the 579-page African report was written by around a hundred experts, two of which, are from the continent. "We have learned from critics to the IPCC about the lack of representation of Southern countries in scientific panels," says Agnès Hallosserie, French scientific secretary for IPBES.

Scientists, however, had to be satisfied with incomplete literature to establish their African biodiversity health report. "Relatively few studies have been published on the valuation of ecosystem services," the report says, focusing on southern Africa and eastern Africa. But the report also builds on Indigenous knowledge, making conservation one of the keys to controlling the degradation of nature and moving towards a "low-carbon ecological economy.

According to Le Monde, the ancestral knowledge of the Masai or Pygmies have been closely examined. In a region where the population is expected to double by 2050 to reach 2.5 billion souls, the experts describe a chaotic competition to conquer new spaces and exploit the natural resources. They point to overfishing, the expansion of agricultural crops, deforestation, the proliferation of extractive activities.

It is estimated that 500,000 km of land is already degraded due to over-exploitation, without counting urbanization. In all African countries, the rise in temperatures should be faster than the global rise. Climate change could lead to significant losses of plant species, the loss of more than 50 percent of bird and mammal species, and a 20 percent to 30 percent decline in lake productivity, as per Le Monde.

To preserve endemic species, many of which have found refuge in protected areas, there may be a need to rethink the existing networks of protected areas as they will no longer coincide with wildlife migration. These protected areas cover nearly 15 percent of the continent's land.

To determine the importance of the issues, IPBES recalls that African biodiversity is already the subject of multiple conservation initiatives: 369 wetlands are ranked of international importance, 142 sites are listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, and 158 sites with endangered species are regulated by the Alliance for Zero Extinction.

In the midst of this gloomy panorama, however, scientists point to a reason for hope, Africa has low ecological and carbon footprints compared to other parts of the world.


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