5 key drivers of the nature crisis

  • 10.12.2022
  • UN Environmental Program

This week, world leaders are gathered in Montreal to strike a global accord to halt and reverse nature loss.

The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) comes at a time when the web of life on Earth is fraying. Human activity is pushing one million species of plants and animals towards extinction, yet over half the world’s GDP is dependent on nature.

We look at the top five drivers of nature loss, identified by the recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment Report.

The biggest driver of biodiversity loss is how people use the land and sea. This includes the conversion of land covers such as forests, wetlands and other natural habitats for agricultural and urban uses.

Since 1990, around 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through conversion to other land uses. Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation, forest degradation and forest biodiversity loss.

The global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone being the identified threat of more than 85 per cent of the 28,000 species at risk of extinction.

Harvesting materials such as minerals from the ocean floor and the building of towns and cities also impact the natural environment and biodiversity.

Reconsidering the way people grow and consume food is one way of reducing the pressure on ecosystems. Degraded and disused farmland can be ideal for restoration, which can support protecting and restoring critical ecosystems such as forests, peatlands and wetlands.