50,000 wild species key to sustainability goals

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There are 50,000 wild species used for food, energy and more. The IPBES report explains how indigenous practices can help secure the SDGs.

Wild species are the lifeblood of billions of people around the world, yet this dependency has been largely ignored to help the world meet its sustainability goals. A new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) explains how support for indigenous practices can support sustainable uses.

“Sustainable use of wildlife is central to the identity and existence of many indigenous peoples and local communities,” says IPBES Assessment Co-Chair Dr Marla Emery. “These practices and cultures are diverse, but there are common values, including the obligation to engage nature with respect, to reciprocate what is taken, to avoid waste, to manage harvests and to ensure the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of wildlife for the well-being of the community.”

Indigenous communities already manage some 38 million square kilometers of land in 87 countries, overlapping around 40% of land conservation areas critical to protecting biodiversity. Deforestation rates, as an example of this protective effect, are generally lower where land use is managed by indigenous peoples.

“The long history of sustainable wildlife uses in these areas has been instrumental in maintaining and increasing local levels of biodiversity while supporting the well-being and livelihoods of indigenous peoples,” the report states. in its summary for policymakers.

About 10,000 wildlife species, including fish, are used for food, 70% of those living in poverty depend on wildlife to some degree. For one in five people on the planet, this means that plants, along with algae and fungi, are used for food.

But there are a total of 50,000 wild species that are used for food, energy, medicine and other uses. They also include cultural and spiritual practices, often in the developed world rather than in distant places. An example is the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, USA. The tribal name itself means “people of the wild rice” and the wild rice of the north (Zizania palustris L.) is central to their diet, as well as ritual ceremonies and festivals.

“Regular use of wildlife is hugely important, not just in the Global South,” says Emery. “From the fish we eat to medicines, cosmetics, decoration and hobbies, the use of wildlife is much more widespread than most people realize.”

This is what makes species protection so essential in the fight against climate change. Many are vulnerable to its impacts. Intense forest fires and drought, for example, impact forests and both human logging activities and animal populations that depend on the forest for their habitat. It is estimated that 12% of wild tree species are already threatened by unsustainable logging.

A lack of sustainable practices can lead to migration as well as conflict, according to the report. In the face of these risks, however, progress in wildlife protection can help achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The authors warn that ambitious goals are necessary to effect transformative change, but they are not enough. Policies that are fit for purpose, focused on equity and inclusion, and built with a cultural culture about the specific contexts in which they are applied, have the best chance of success.

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