Bending the curve of terrestrial biodiversity needs an integrated strategy

Increased efforts are required to prevent further losses to terrestrial biodiversity and the ecosystem services that it provides1,2. Ambitious targets have been proposed, such as reversing the declining trends in biodiversity3; however, just feeding the growing human population will make this a challenge4. Here we use an ensemble of land-use and biodiversity models to assess whether—and how—humanity can reverse the declines in terrestrial biodiversity caused by habitat conversion, which is a major threat to biodiversity5. We show that immediate efforts, consistent with the broader sustainability agenda but of unprecedented ambition and coordination, could enable the provision of food for the growing human population while reversing the global terrestrial biodiversity trends caused by habitat conversion. If we decide to increase the extent of land under conservation management, restore degraded land and generalize landscape-level conservation planning, biodiversity trends from habitat conversion could become positive by the mid-twenty-first century on average across models (confidence interval, 2042–2061), but this was not the case for all models. Food prices could increase and, on average across models, almost half (confidence interval, 34–50%) of the future biodiversity losses could not be avoided. However, additionally tackling the drivers of land-use change could avoid conflict with affordable food provision and reduces the environmental effects of the food-provision system. Through further sustainable intensification and trade, reduced food waste and more plant-based human diets, more than two thirds of future biodiversity losses are avoided and the biodiversity trends from habitat conversion are reversed by 2050 for almost all of the models. Although limiting further loss will remain challenging in several biodiversity-rich regions, and other threats—such as climate change—must be addressed to truly reverse the declines in biodiversity, our results show that ambitious conservation efforts and food system transformation are central to an effective post-2020 biodiversity strategy.

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