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Nature’s road to recovery

New approach needed to reverse unprecedented biodiversity loss: scientists

Research

By Jeff Green

A researcher from the Faculty of Science is among a large international group of experts who are recommending how to save nature from extraordinary biodiversity loss.

Dr. Paul Snelgrove, University Research Professor, departments of Ocean Sciences and Biology, is co-author of a new paper in the journal Science, which concludes that policy-makers must identify multiple conservation targets if we are to curb nature’s decline.

Dr. Snelgrove is one of more than 60 biodiversity experts from 26 countries who evaluated a series of new goals for nature being drafted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Biodiversity loss

The discussion revealed the problem of focusing conservation planning on single targets and objectives, because no one target solves all of the problems the planet’s inhabitants face with biodiversity loss, says Dr. Snelgrove.

“The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international treaty signed by almost 200 countries, will set new conservation targets in the coming months,” he said. “Our review indicates a strong need to avoid single targets that might allow significant further deterioration of natural environments in the coming decades.

“We have not done very well as a society in achieving the targets CBD set for 2020, but there have been some successes,” he continued. “This means there is value in setting targets and working to achieve them.”

A multicorer going over the side of CGS Hudson recovers intact sediments and their biota from the seafloor a thousand metres below.
A multicorer recovers intact sediments and their biota from the seafloor.
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Snelgrove, B.Sc.(Hons.)’84, is director of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Canadian Healthy Oceans Network and associate scientific director of the Ocean Frontier Institute.

Earlier this year, he was appointed departmental science advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

He says he was proud to contribute to this vital research.

“Terrestrial experts typically dominate international conservation discussions, but they recognize the major role of the oceans in global processes,” Dr. Snelgrove explained.

“I was invited by an amazing colleague, Dr. David Obura from Kenya, to help him contribute marine expertise and issues to the discussion, noting that some aspects of ocean systems fundamentally differ from those on land, despite many similar conservation challenges.”

‘Heeds our advice’

Ultimately Dr. Snelgrove says he hopes the CBD, as well as international policy-makers, governments and other scientists, “heeds our advice” and identifies multiple targets in order to provide an effective strategy that reverses multiple trends in biodiversity loss.

Deep-water coral from the continental slope off Nova Scotia provides habitat for many other species. Its slow growth and delicate structure make it highly vulnerable to human impacts.
Deep-water coral from the continental slope off Nova Scotia provides habitat for many other species. Its slow growth and delicate structure make it highly vulnerable to human impacts.
Photo: A. Metaxas/CSSF/ROPOS

“The CBD has a significant voice in policy internationally and they can make a real difference in how different nations consider conservation efforts,” he added.

“International experts such as our group must make themselves heard and, in doing so, they must speak with a clear and united voice that seeks specific solutions to problems. Working with this team really helped me see how good science can send a clear and convincing message when presented in the right way.”


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