Biodiversity in danger

Keywords: summit, conference, biodiversity, species, animals, extinction, influence, man, cause, modifications, pollution, ecosystem

Press review of 4 articles about the January 2005 UNESCO summit on biodiversity.

1) Alert to biodiversity threatened, The World

By Hervé Kempf

At the initiative of Jacques Chirac, an international conference brings together in Paris, from January 24, political leaders and scientific experts.
Brachyta borni is a very peaceful capricorn of the order Coleoptera, which presents a singularity: it probably only exists in one or two places, located in the French Alps, not far from the Italian border. This insect is an endemic species, that is to say that it is only found in these places, in this case near Vars, in the Hautes-Alpes.
But Brachyta borni risks passing quickly to death: a quarryman indeed received on December 6, 2004 the prefectural authorization to exploit the rock glacier where the species lodges, on the col de Vars. According to local entomologists, the destruction of this glacier will likely lead to the extinction of the species. In the general silence, and without anyone being able to measure the consequences of this loss of biodiversity. Like hundreds of species of insects, plants, molluscs, across the world.
As the Republic is not immune to contradictions, it is organizing, from Monday 24 January to Friday 28, an international conference on the theme “Biodiversity. Science and governance ”. Part of a proposal by Jacques Chirac to the G8 in Evian in 2003, this conference undoubtedly stands out among all kinds of meetings which occupy experts and diplomats all over the world. Because it aims to popularize a theme which is, alongside climate change, the most serious of the planetary ecological crisis - the impoverishment of the biosphere - and because it explicitly questions the means of transforming knowledge science in effective political action.
The event, organized by France, brings together high-level political leaders (Jacques Chirac, who is to inaugurate the rally; but also the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo; the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Abdullah Badawi; the President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana), companies (Sanofi, Novartis, the World Federation of Pharmacy, Total), hundreds of scientists, including the “gratin” of biodiversity specialists: Edward Wilson, David Tilman, Michel Loreau, Harold Mooney, etc. .
“The originality of the Conference,” says Jacques Weber, director of the French Biodiversity Institute, “is to bring together people who usually do not meet. "" It is a question of taking stock of what we know, says Michel Loreau, president of the scientific committee of the Conference, and of establishing a dialogue with politicians. Scientists have the impression that nothing is progressing, as the biodiversity crisis reaches historic proportions. "
First problem: how to precisely qualify the biodiversity crisis, give it a simple expression, as understandable to the general public as climate change has become?
If we record the destruction or degradation of local ecosystems (wetlands, tropical forests, grasslands, etc.) as well as the disappearance of species at a rate never seen in the history of the planet, scientists still wonder. many questions: how to synthesize this crisis using simple indicators? How to measure these disappearances for the most abundant but less known orders (invertebrates)? How to assess the concrete consequences of ecosystem degradation?
These difficulties explain why scientists have not yet produced a simple representation of the biodiversity crisis, and all the less so since, unlike climate change, which is a global phenomenon, the general biodiversity crisis is occurring. translated by a multitude of local events.
In addition, the community of researchers concerned is fragmented. It remains to be seen that the theme of biodiversity unites it more strongly than rivalries divide it. Ecologists, taxonomists, geneticists, sociologists, fundamental biologists form as many chapels which sometimes find it difficult to work together.
Scientists hope, however, that the Conference will lead to the launch of a mechanism that could be comparable to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). This, which brings together hundreds of researchers, produces in-depth expertise of the climate problem, but also a summary easily understandable by decision-makers. Likewise, for biodiversity, "we must be able to clearly tell governments, businesses and individuals what the consequences of their actions are", summarized a collective text published in Science on January 14.
But it will be necessary to overcome the reluctance of many to create a new structure alongside the Millennium ecosystem assessment (which assesses ecosystems), the United Nations Environment Program, and especially the Convention on Biodiversity, signed in 1992.
This Convention is practically bogged down, due to the difficulty of agreeing on the distribution of the potential benefits derived from the exploitation of biodiversity. Moreover, the absence of the United States, which has not ratified it, weakens it greatly. In 2002 in The Hague, the signatories of the Convention set the objective of "significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss in 2010". The stalling of the discussions jeopardizes the achievement of this objective. The 2004 meeting of the Convention made little progress
Scientists are therefore looking for a way out of this impasse and stimulate policies by producing clear diagnoses. "We are going to carefully test the hypotheses," says Laurence Tubiana (Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations), who will coordinate the "Governance of biodiversity" workshop. “We hope that everyone will agree to think and start something. "

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source: The world

2) Biodiversity: Chirac calls the planet to save it, Liberation

By Corinne Bensimon

Set in 1992 in Rio, the objectives to slow down the decline in biodiversity have almost gone unheeded. A new conference opens today at Unesco.
Paris: ˇ2.126.000 Homo sapiens, or 20.200 per square kilometer, one of the European territories most colonized by mankind ˇ this week will be the beacon of the global fight against the erosion of biodiversity. Today, the French capital is hosting with great pomp, at Unesco headquarters, an international conference whose title has the merit of conciseness: "Biodiversity: science and governance". His official wish, carried by Jacques Chirac, is to ensure that science quickly translates into governance. “Science” will be represented by several hundred researchers, and some of the best: ecologists (1), epidemiologists, economists, pharmacologists, agronomists, anthropologists… As for “governance”, it will be embodied by many representatives of State and government. NGO, and first by the French president.

Dialogue. He was the one who launched the project for such a meeting in June 2003 at the G8 in Evian. More than ten years had passed since the first environmental summit, held in Rio in 1992, and the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 2002, the second Earth Summit ended in Johannesburg with an even more precise commitment: to slow down, by 2010, the rate of decline in biodiversity. Slow down, in a way, the decline of nature ... The objective seemed modest. It has remained practically a dead letter. What is missing to take action? Knowledge ? Political will? Chirac estimated that a large scientific conference during which researchers would draw up "a state of knowledge, gaps and scientific controversies" and which lead to "establish a dialogue between scientists, politicians and economic decision-makers" could accelerate the process.
In fact, there are two major unknowns: the number of species currently living (between 5 and 100 million, according to estimates), and the adaptive capacity of those which are threatened. We know that some migrate to more hospitable sites, that others develop specific responses without even moving (newts advance their laying date under the effect of warming ...), but we do not know how quickly these adaptations are made. and how they redistribute balances… It is estimated that “in France, species will have to travel 180 km north and 150 m in altitude to respond to an average warming of one degree” (2). But which species can win this race and survive in these new habitats?

Emergency. There are three points of consensus, which are the basis of the feeling of urgency of ecologists and ecologists: first, the loss of biological diversity harms human health. Second, this loss of diversity follows a pace unknown since the great periods of extinction of the living, racing after the Second World War (England and France have lost around 15% of their birds since the 80s). Third, this decline is, for the first time in the history of life, due to the pressure of a single species, man, whose numbers have doubled in the space of half a century, while that its consumption of water, wood, fossil organic matter, was multiplied by six ...
What to do to slow down the decline in cash? Support public research in ecology ˇ a topical issue in France, where researchers cry misery. Invent action strategies, in situ. Evaluate the actions in progress, such as those which consist in creating protected areas. "Conservation" must aim to maintain, on a site, a "potential for evolution" of species, explains Jacques Weber, director of the French Biodiversity Institute, recalling that, contrary to popular belief, " an ecosystem is never in equilibrium, but in a permanent imbalance which is the key to its evolution ”. Another idea, more heterodox, will be debated at Unesco: economists propose to integrate the protection of biodiversity into the market economy, considering nature as a source of goods and services, the value of which increases according to scarcity. Nature, a new market?

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(1) Expert Scientists of Ecosystems.
(2) In Biodiversity and Global Changes,
ed. ADPFE, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

source: Libération

3) A little lesson in ecology: the point of view of a researcher, Le Figaro

Jean-Louis Martin, researcher at the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CNRS / Montpellier).

* The impact of man on biodiversity is old. While in Africa humans and wildlife have evolved together, the expansion of Paleolithic hunters out of the African cradle has resulted in the extinction of many large mammals who have remained naïve to this predator. Giant marsupials disappeared from Australia around 50 years ago, mammoths and the woolly rhinoceros from Eurasia 000 years ago. A whole world of colossi including elephants, big horn bison, big canine felines vanished from North America about 10 years ago.
* Man is also a vector of biodiversity. When he became a farmer in the Neolithic era, he opened the forest for his crops or grazing, he built, burned. He gradually created landscape mosaics and artificial habitats. It then allows a greater number of species to coexist in a region. In the south of France, birds such as warblers and wheatear depend on this opening of the landscape. This is also the case for the bocage in the west of the country.
* Man has shared this role of ecosystem builder with other species. The beaver builds dams with materials taken from its environment and creates water bodies sheltering a diverse fauna. As corals develop, they give birth to underwater architectures and an unparalleled profusion of life on continental scales. Like these species, humans have long been what ecologists call an “ecosystem engineer”.
* With the industrial revolution, man begins to modify the biosphere. The machine replaces the muscle. The rural exodus leads to the abandonment of land and the closure of communities or the intensification of agriculture. The combustion of fossil fuels changes the climate. Species linked to extensive agriculture are on the decline. Like birds such as the little bustard or the corncrake, they constitute most of the endangered species in France. The human population grows from one billion to more than six and uses an ever larger share of the energy pie that the sun dispenses to the Earth each year. The share left to other species is shrinking.
* Changes are not limited to loss of cash. All the vertebrates that numbered in the tens of millions just 150 years ago have seen their numbers melt like snow in the sun. The survival of these species is not at stake, but their function in ecosystems is. While more than 70 million bison were needed to shape the great American prairie, their absence jeopardizes the future of the plots spared by the plow. Likewise, the millions of salmon that came up and died each year in our rivers fertilized them with resources from the ocean. They also fueled the economy of neighboring populations. Today, researchers are wondering about the consequences of their absence.
* Biodiversity is everywhereeven in town. The wood pigeon, the fox or the deer become city dwellers or colonize suburbs and field crops. They remind us that wildlife can find a place in environments highly modified by man. For other species, such as the house sparrow, the wild bird most closely linked to humans, the researchers note a regression that raises questions about the quality of our urban environment. Everywhere, it is a question of understanding what allows ordinary life to keep or regain a place, including in our cities.

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source: Figaro

4) Biodiversity: an NGO counter-summit to denounce the hypocrisy of Paris, Le Monde

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are organizing side debates at the Paris Summit. "We fear that once again speeches will follow speeches", explain the two NGOs, who want to point the finger at France's responsibilities in terms of biodiversity. At the end of the conferences, they will present to the government a set of "reflections and recommendations".

Environmental organizations are organizing a counter-summit on the sidelines of the Paris conference on biodiversity to denounce France's "contradictions" and call on it to take action.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have decided to participate in a parallel manner in this high mass desired by Jacques Chirac to "try to convince political leaders of the urgency to act".

"We fear that once again speeches will follow speeches", explain the two NGOs in a joint statement.

The League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) is just as critical and suspicious of France's attitude to the protection of biodiversity on its territory.


"Pinned by Brussels a week ago for its ill will in the protection of nature, France must seize the opportunity offered to it (...) to position itself in a less contradictory manner", writes its president, Allain Bougrain -Dubourg, in a press release.

“Today there is an urgent need to act. Our country is indeed dead last within Europe for the preservation of biodiversity, ”he adds.

The LPO believes that the tree of the "bear plan" recently announced by the Minister of the Environment in the Pyrenees "must not hide the forest from inconsistent decisions on biodiversity".

The Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (Aspas) also denounces France's “irresponsible and calamitous policy” on the environment.

"France is talking about biodiversity while it seriously flouts its own," she said.

France Nature Environnement, for its part, affirms that "biodiversity requires an ambitious and urgent strategy", and underlines "the gap between declarations and realities on the ground".

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth would not want the responsibilities of Paris, one of the most biodiverse countries in the North, to be evaded at the conference organized to contribute to the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) .

"Since it was signed in 1992, it has been clear that the Convention on Biological Diversity has not made it possible to halt the erosion of global biodiversity", write the two associations.


They take as an example the degradation of tropical forests.

“Every six hours, a forest area equivalent to Paris, the host city of this new summit, disappears, leading to the extinction of many plant and animal species, sometimes unknown,” they say.

Faced with the extent of deforestation, researchers and associations regularly sound the alarm bells.

For Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, solutions exist to help preserve tropical forests, "but the political will to act is lacking".

"As soon as it is a question of saving tropical forests, our policies become schizophrenic: in France we make fine speeches, and in Africa we encourage French companies to plunder forests", indignant Sylvain Angerand, in charge of the campaign. Tropical forests for Friends of the Earth.

Illanga Itoua, in charge of the African Forests campaign for Greenpeace France, underlines that "States undermined by corruption or barely emerging from conflicts mainly choose the path of short-term profit and not redistributed to the nation".

“In the forests, opacity, lack of governance and impunity reign supreme. The peoples and forests of the Congo Basin are suffering the most dramatic consequences. But it is all of humanity that is concerned by the looting of its heritage, ”she continues.

To confront the French government with its responsibilities and present it with “reflections and recommendations” on the eve of the Brazzaville summit on the forests of the Congo Basin, on February 4 and 5, in which Jacques Chirac, Les Amis de la Terre and Greenpeace will participate organize a week of parallel debates.

The organizations have also planned actions, such as the interactive staging, in the street, of the public logging trial, in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.

With Reuters and Le Monde

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