People living in the Americas have three times more access to the benefits offered by nature than the average enjoyed by citizens around the world. However, not all countries use these resources sustainably, but rather exceed the capacity of ecosystems to renew themselves and promote quality of life.
The word of caution comes from experts at the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), in Medellín, Colombia, attending their sixth plenary session, slated to end Friday (Mar. 27). IPBES is an independent agency created by the United Nations to promote the preservation of the environment across the world.
The Americas are home to 13% of the world’s population and seven of the 17 most biologically diverse countries on the planet. They also hold 40% of the capacity of the world’s ecosystems to produce materials that can be consumed by human beings. At the same time, their output totals nearly a fourth of the globe’s ecological sustenance (the amount of resources necessary to support the world’s entire population), and their natural resources are far from being evenly distributed among the inhabitants of the continent.
This unbalance is believed to have a measurable impact. Representatives from the São Paulo State Foundation for Research Support, who are also attending the event, said that, by comparing the region’s biodiversity today with that of the early period of European colonization, scientists estimate that the populations of 31% of the American species in a given area have faced a decline—an already alarming value that may reach 40% by 2050.
The report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the Americas was one of the four regional documents published by IPBES—the other reports focus on Africa; Europe and Central Asia; and Asia and the Pacific. Also released were four summaries for decision-makers with the main findings from the studies.
“Brazil was among the countries with an instrumental role in reaching a diagnose for the Americas. In addition to my participation as one of the three coordinators-general, four out of the report’s six chapters were coordinated by Brazilians. Among authors and contributors, over 30 people from our country were involved altogether,” said Cristiana Simão Seixas, researcher at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and coordinator for regional diagnose for the Americas alongside Canadian Jake Rice and Argentine Maria Elena Zaccagnini.
Apart from Seixas, six other members of the BIOTA-FAPESP program are on the team of authors who penned the regional report: Jean Pierre Ometto, Juliana Sampaio Farinaci, Jean Paul Metzger, Ricardo Ribeiro Rodrigues, and Carlos Alfredo Joly. Joly is a member of IPBES’s Multidisciplinary Panel of Specialists (MEP), and helped devise the guidelines for the local diagnoses.
“All of them also lead the Brazilian Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BPBES), applying the experience recently acquired in the diagnose for the Americas in the elaboration of the Brazilian Diagnose for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, to be launched in July during the 70th annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for Scientific Progress (SBPC), in Natal,” Joly added.
Joly, who also coordinates the BIOTA program, described Brazil as “undoubtedly” one of the American countries that use natural resources farthest away from the desired rate.
“Ever since the discovery, our economy has been based on extractivism, and the expansion of agribusiness goes in the same direction. The focus today is the cerrado comprised by the region referred to as Matopiba: Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí, and Bahia. Despite their production of food—a first-class necessity—and despite the fact that they make an enormous contribution to the country’s balance of trade, they do so in a predatory fashion,” he argued.
Instead of simply expanding the areas dedicated to soybean production and cattle, Joly argues, a multifunctional landscape should be prioritized, with vast agricultural areas interspersed by native vegetation, and connected by broad strips of riparian forest.
“Sizable populations of pollenizers could be maintained, leading to an increase in the amount of soybeans, as well as better supplies for aquifers, especially in the cerrado territories—averting the need for rationing measures—biodiversity, and the capacity of conservation being optimized by the connection between sections of riparian forest. It’s a win-win situation in the medium run,” he concluded.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira
Edited by: José Romildo