Is it too late for nature?

Biodiversity is in an unprecedented decline and species extinction is accelerating, according to a comprehensive report by the Expert Panelon Biodiversity and Ecosystems (IPBES). Is it too late for the human to reverse the mess he has created?

Researcher Jean-François Silvain, president of the Foundation for Biodiversity Research, thinks there is still time, but humans must take action quickly to ensure that resources essential to its survival do not disappear .

The report made by 145 scientists and based on 15,000 scientific articles and international reports is disturbing. The 1,800-page document shows that about one million animal and plant species out of the estimated eight million on Earth are threatened with extinction, including “many in the coming decades.”

This report is the meeting of a whole series of scientific data already known, since researchers have been alerting on these issues for 15 years.

 Jean-François Silvain, President of the Foundation for Biodiversity Research

“The interest of this work is that they all [data] were gathered in a single document by several hundred people,” adds Jean-François Silvain, with the aim of presenting them to the different governments.

Planetary radiography

The paper shows that 75% of the Earth’s environment has been “severely impaired” by human activities and that 66% of the marine environment is also affected.

The threat exists, it is real.

 Jean-François Silvain


  • The first traces of human beings on biodiversity, a deforestation dating back 8000 years, have been observed in China.
  • The human footprint has accelerated since industrialization, from the 1800s.
  • Since the 1970s, footprints left by agricultural production, fishing, energy production and the use of raw materials have risen sharply.
  • To meet its needs, humans have destroyed thousands of ecosystems in a few tens of years, over-exploited the resources of the oceans and forests, polluted the atmosphere and water of oceans, rivers and lakes. and led to the decline of animal species.
  • Its activities have even led to climate change on a global scale.

Is this the beginning of the sixth mass extinction?

In recent years, many scientists claim that the Earth has entered – or enters – into the sixth mass extinction.

We know that mass extinction, roughly, is 75% of life that disappears. […] Today, what science says is that we may not be in mass extinction yet.

 Jean-François Silvain

The scientist adds a “but” because, according to him, if the human continues to develop its activities as is currently the case, we could quickly achieve it.

If we refer to well-known taxonomic groups, such as birds, amphibians, terrestrial mammals, today’s figures tend to show that we could reach this level of extinction fairly quickly.

 Jean-François Silvain

“What you need to know is that before you see a species disappear, in general, its populations will decrease. To make it disappear, we must eliminate all its populations, “says the researcher.

A situation that is observed everywhere on the globe.

Mr Silvain recalled that a German study showed that in the space of 30 years, 80% of the biomass of flying insects had disappeared.

“These are not extinct species, but dramatically reduced populations,” he says.

This is the famous windshield syndrome. That is to say, 50 years ago, every 100-150 kilometers, you had to stop to clean your windshield because there were so many crushed insects. It no longer exists.

 Jean-François Silvain

Turn the tide

The report’s signatories believe, however, that it is not too late for terrestrial biodiversity.

We know what are the direct pressure factors: land use change, overexploitation of resources, pollution, climate change, invasive alien species, etc. We also know the very strong indirect factors, including the rapidly growing human population. And economic social activities that often ignore biodiversity.

 Jean-François Silvain

Mr. Silvain says that we must “try again to return to more sustainable systems by reducing, roughly speaking, human consumption”.

This is the question of meat consumption, and to return to balance may be more in line with the possibilities of the planet to provide all the necessary products for mass production of meat.

 Jean-François Silvain

“It’s going towards an ecosystem-based production of fisheries where the quotas are respected in a rather drastic way to allow the fish populations to continue to prosper”, continues the researcher.

In addition, “many countries are engaged in a fairly drastic reduction in the use of pesticides, which, we know, have caused massive damage to the environment.”

It takes somewhere that everyone commits, from citizens to states through businesses. That we have more coherence in our environmental policies.

 Jean-François Silvain

What is IPBES?

  • It is an intergovernmental science and policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • This international body is open to any member of the United Nations.
  • Its work is compared to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The importance of communities

The report shows that regions managed by indigenous peoples or local communities are less affected by the decline in biodiversity.

When there are local communities, and they are able to influence the management of the biodiversity of the areas where they live, in general, they will be more attentive and better protected than outside these areas. habitat areas of these local communities. So, somewhere, these local communities are relatively effective vectors for protecting biodiversity.

 Jean-François Silvain

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