Governments fail to halt biodiversity loss

World governments have failed to meet a 2010 target to halt biodiversity loss and action must be taken to preserve the species and ecosystems upon which human life depends, a United Nations report said yesterday.

In a move endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly, more than 190 countries committed in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.

But the report said: “There are multiple indications of continuing decline in biodiversity in all three of its main components — genes, species and ecosystems.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The consequences of this collective failure, if it is not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all.”

Natural habitats in most parts of the world are shrinking and nearly a quarter of plant species are estimated to be threatened with extinction, said the Global Biodiversity Outlook-3 report.

The abundance of vertebrate species fell by nearly a third between 1970 and 2006 and crop and livestock genetic diversity is declining in farming.

“Biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water…Current trends are bringing us closer to a number of potential tipping points that would catastrophically reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide these essential services,” said Ban.

The report said there had been significant progress in slowing the rate of loss for tropical forests and mangroves in some regions. But freshwater wetlands, sea ice habitats, salt marshes and coral reefs all show serious decline.