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Billions of people rely on wild species for food, fuel and income: UN

#Billions #people #rely #wild #species #food #fuel #income

The rampant exploitation of nature poses a threat to billions of people around the world who depend on wild species for food, energy and income, according to a new report by United Nations biodiversity experts released on Friday.

From fishing and logging to the use of wild plants in medicines and perfumes, societies around the world depend heavily on species that have not been domesticated or cultivated for agriculture, with hundreds of billions of dollars in annual worldwide legal and illegal trade .

But as humans are driving an alarming loss of biodiversity — and climate change threatens to accelerate destruction — the United Nations Scientific Advisory Body on Biodiversity, known as IPBES, has called for “transformative changes” in our relationship with wildlife.

“Billions of people in every region of the world depend on and benefit from the use of wild species for food, medicine, energy, income and many other purposes,” it said, adding that overexploitation and environmental degradation pose particularly serious threats to the vulnerable resources.

The report, which took four years to produce and was authored by 85 experts from various disciplines, comes as the UN steers a crucial international process to set a framework for protecting nature in the coming decades.

IPBES, which has previously warned that a million species are on the brink of extinction, said promoting sustainability and halting overexploitation are “critical to reversing the global trend of biodiversity decline”.

The report recognizes the fundamental role these animals and plants play in people’s lives, and in particular the crucial role played by indigenous communities in protecting nature.

“The exploitation of wild species is absolutely critical to humans and nature,” Jean-Marc Fromentin, the report’s co-chair, told AFP, adding that UN experts estimate that “roughly 40 percent of humanity” is in some way affected by dependent on wild species.

“It’s a lot bigger than you think.”

They are a “key issue for food security” around the world and also play a major economic role, he said.

– food and fuel –

A total of 50,000 species are used worldwide for food, energy, medicine, material and other uses, according to the report, with more than 10,000 different species being harvested for human consumption.

Wild plants, algae and fungi provide food and income for one in five people worldwide, the report says, while around 2.4 billion people rely on wood for cooking.

An estimated 70 percent of the world’s poor depend directly on wildlife and wildlife-related businesses, the report found.

But these species are not only used by rural communities in developing countries.

“City dwellers in rich countries may not realize it, but wild plants are used in medicines or cosmetics, people eat wild fish, and there’s a good chance furniture comes from wild trees,” Fromentin said.

– Big business –

Wild trees account for two-thirds of the world’s industrial logs, while the trade in wild plants, algae and fungi is a billion-dollar industry.

Even foraging remains an important activity for people in North America and Europe, with particularly high rates in Eastern Europe, according to the study, which says there is a “growing demand for wild foods” for high-end restaurants.

But IPBES said global trade could become disconnected from sustainable local supply as rising demand puts species and ecosystems at risk, and said there was an “urgent” need for effective action.

A major problem is the illegal wildlife trade, estimated at US$69 billion to US$199 billion per year and the third largest illegal market after human trafficking and drugs, according to IPBES.

While this mainly targets trees and fish, the report said trade in rarer animals and plants like orchids can have devastating effects at even smaller scales, and warns it often pushes species beyond their limits.

– Citizens of Nature –

But the report highlights that making the natural world thrive is an even bigger deal.

For example, tourism based on wildlife observation was one of the main reasons protected areas attracted eight billion global visitors and generated US$600 billion each year before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, well-managed fisheries often show increasing abundance of fish relative to areas that are not fished sustainably.

According to IPBES, overexploitation is the top threat to marine wildlife and a top threat to terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.

The report’s authors said that in many societies, the concept that humans are separate from and dominant over nature “has led to major environmental crises such as climate change and biodiversity loss.”

Following the example of indigenous peoples, they said a “more respectful” relationship with the planet could be based on seeing humanity as “a member or citizen of nature among others.”

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