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When it comes to tackling the biodiversity crisis, international scientific collaboration is a must

Prof Nathalie Pettorelli, of Zoological Society of London, talks about the valuable role of the Biodiversa+ global biodiversity partnership in supporting research and innovation, and why the UK joining it would be a no brainer

June 2023

Biodiversity is declining globally at unprecedented rates, eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life world-wide. This is a massive issue, because biological diversity literally is humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’, being critical, among other things, to addressing the current climate change crisis. Reduced species abundance, local extinctions, as well as the rapid degradation and/or loss of ecosystems are indeed having a major impact on our planet’s ability to store carbon, while reducing nature and people’s ability to adapt to and/or cope with changing climatic conditions. In addition, both climate change and biodiversity loss underpin the public health crises created by zoonotic disease emergence and spread.

The importance of bending the curve on biodiversity loss is starting to be grasped by politicians around the world, and several nations have recently committed to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. Admittedly, global biodiversity conservation efforts continue to be chronically and substantially underfunded, especially when compared to resources allocated to climate change mitigation and adaptation; and these national and international commitments continue to be made mostly outside of any legally-binding framework. Critically, they still fail to address the primary drivers of biodiversity loss. But, for the past years, nature recovery has gained some political traction, aided, among other things by the publication of the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the Bonn Challenge and the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

Agreeing that the rapid and large-scale recovery of nature is a key priority for humanity is an important first step towards a nature positive future. The next step is to deliver on this priority, and that is no small thing. This is especially true for a country like the United Kingdom, one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Recovering wildlife in a relatively stable climate is hard enough, but we are having to bring back nature in the face of rapidly changing and unpredictable climatic conditions. If we are to do this successfully, we are going to need to capitalise on all the expertise, evidence and knowledge available.

Recovering nature is a priority for a lot of countries. Faced with the same challenges, it makes absolute sense to join efforts, share knowledge and collaborate. Over the past decades, scientists and practitioners all over the world have accumulated a lot of knowledge and expertise about nature recovery, what works, and what doesn’t work so well. Bringing this information and these people together, and encouraging them to work collaboratively, is a cost-effective way to build the future we need.

This is something that Biodiversa+, a global biodiversity partnership of 40 countries and more than 80 partner organisations, has well understood. The platform supports research and innovation on biodiversity through a shared strategy, annual joint calls for research projects and capacity building activities. It represents the biggest network of agencies and countries coming together to advance biodiversity research and use it to guide policy and its implementation.

The United Kingdom is currently absent from this partnership. This is despite the fact that there are no fees to be part of Biodiversa+; despite the fact that participation in Biodiversa+ activities and calls are à-la-carte, depending on the priorities and resources available from the UK and its relevant agencies; and despite the fact that involvement with international calls always comes with the offer of financial leverage to participating countries.

This decision makes little sense to many UK scientists and practitioners involved with biodiversity research and nature recovery. This is why more than 100 leading UK researchers and prominent conservation NGOs came together on this UN World Environment Day to urge the Government to join Biodiversa+ and enable the UK biodiversity community to benefit from the vast array of opportunities offered by this partnership.

Addressing biodiversity loss is a complex challenge that will require a lot of science and innovation. When experts collaborate across borders and disciplines, they can achieve more than they could have achieved on their own—and they can make breakthroughs that would have been impossible without international collaboration. International collaboration also has economic benefits for all involved, as researchers and practitioners from different countries share ideas and resources that help them each advance their own agendas and make valuable contributions to society as a whole. This is an easy decision: joining Biodiversa+ simply is a no brainer.

Prof Nathalie Pettorelli, Zoological Society of London, works on mitigating the impacts of climate change on biodiversity; global biodiversity monitoring; and co-existence between wildlife and people.

Follow: @ZSLScience

The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors' and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.