Jonathan Baillie is Conservation Programmes Director for the Zoological Society of London and a global authority on the status and trends of threatened species. He has played a significant role in some of the most influential documents on the status of the world's species including the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and has helped lead the development of a series of species level global biodiversity indicators for the Convention on Biological Diversity.
2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and our planet is in crisis. A recent paper in Science (Butchart et al. 2010) demonstrates that indicators looking at the status of species and ecosystems continue to show declining trends while those looking at threats are rapidly increasing. It is unfortunately clear that the 2010 CBD target has not been met, as we have not reduced the rate of biodiversity loss. ZSL research conducted in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and partners demonstrates that 1/4 of the world’s terrestrial vertebrates – mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians – are threatened with extinction and our initial results indicate that these patterns may be representative of biodiversity in general. ZSL research with WWF indicates that vertebrates have declined by 30 percent since 1970 and this is consistent across marine, freshwater and terrestrial systems.
The threats to biodiversity are intensifying with the impacts of climate change and the increased pressure associated with an estimated global population increase of 2.5 billion people over the next 40 years. This century is clearly presenting society with some of the greatest challenges it has ever faced. Our ability to overcome these challenges depends on whether we are capable of transitioning to a world where we manage the world’s species and ecosystems in a sustainable manner. The 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity provides an opportunity for the world’s governments to place biodiversity high on the international political agenda and jumpstart this transition process. If this does not occur, nature will find its own balance with unthinkable consequences for all species, including the humans.