bioGENESIS submission to IPBES on scientific and technical matters

A submission to IPBES prepared by bioGENESIS.

The new IPBES Draft Work Programme 2014-2018 has prioritised among topical submissions based on "urgency, relevance to IPBES, reasons why IPBES is best suited to take action, the need to build the foundation for later deliverables and the need to demonstrate early deliverables." Among the high priority thematic and methodological topics to be addressed as initial deliverables in the work program, deliverable 3e has the rationale that "methods to address and capture the multiple values of biodiversity are critical for the work of IPBES and have been identified as important tools and methodologies to support policy." Deliverable 3e  therefore delivers on our bioGENESIS submission (below) that called for a fast-track  "thematic assessment and synthesis addressing the multiple values of biodiversity..."

IPBES template for the submission of requests/inputs/suggestions on scientific and technical matters that require the Platform’s attention and action

IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services)

Main text follows. For complete submission including "Information to accompany requests submitted to the Platform", see PDF link at right.

Name and contact details of individual submitting requests/inputs/suggestions:
Daniel P Faith  (co-lead bioGENESIS)
The Australian Museum
Date of submission:  May 5, 2013
Submission from:bioGENESIS (within DIVERSITAS)
Specifics of request/input/suggestion:

This submission has been prepared by bioGENESIS (see ). As a stakeholder, we recently provided comments on the “Background document to support the development of a Conceptual Framework to guide the delivery of IPBES”. We are grateful for the opportunity provided by IPBES to provide inputs and suggestions for the work program, noting IPBES role in “encouraging and taking into account, as appropriate, inputs and suggestions made by relevant stakeholders.”

We note that “The Platform performs regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services and their interlinkages, which should include comprehensive global, regional and, as necessary, subregional assessments and thematic issues at appropriate scales and new topics identified by science and as decided upon by the Plenary.”

We suggest a near-future thematic assessment drawing upon the existing scientific literature. The assessment would primarily focus on Aichi targets 1 and 2, but we also would see the assessment as foundational for IPBES activities.

A short working title for the proposed assessment is:

“A thematic assessment and synthesis addressing the multiple values of biodiversity, in support of Aichi targets 1 and 2”

Details and rationale

Aichi targets 1 and 2 require assessment, synthesis and communications regarding the multiple values of biodiversity.

TARGET 1 – “By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.”

The Technical Rationale (COP/10/INF/12/Rev.1) states that “Nearly all Parties indicate in their fourth national reports that they are undertaking actions related to education and public awareness, however further efforts are needed to increase overall public awareness of the various values of biodiversity.”

TARGET 2 – “By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.”

The Technical Rationale (COP/10/INF/12/Rev.1) states that “The objective of this target is to ensure that the diverse values of biodiversity and opportunities derived from its conservation and sustainable use are recognized and reflected in all relevant public and private decision-making.

Understanding and communicating the multiple values of biodiversity for Aichi targets 1 and 2 logically is a precursor – a requirement – for successfully addressing the other Aichi goals.

This same argument, in fact, applies to the IPBES work program. IPBES clearly needs an effective assessment/synthesis regarding multiple biodiversity values in order to effectively carry out its activities. For example, the recent IPBES informal international expert workshop on the theme, “Policy support through relevant tools and methodologies in the intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services”, reported that:
“The issues tackled within IPBES like biodiversity conservation and use of ecosystem services will always be subject to different values depending on the stakeholders involved.”... “it will be important for IPBES, when outlining and analysing policy options, to include the underlying values and other assumptions as far as possible into its work and make them, as an honest broker of the policy options, transparent and explicit."

Priority and risks

The case for giving priority to this proposed assessment rests in part on the fact that a large literature (old and new) provides much relevant science-policy information, but there is no existing synthesis of this information that could serve the Aichi and IPBES needs. We outline several other arguments below.

There is a risk that some of the likely approaches to Targets 1 and 2 will treat biodiversity - but not the full spectrum of its diverse values. An assessment can help avoid simply treating “biodiversity” as a catch-all that does not capture multiple values. Some activities for Target 1 already address the issue of awareness of “biodiversity” in general, and guidance now is needed regarding the more explicit treatment of diverse values. For example, GEO BON describes gaps regarding Target 1:
“... the goal is not only to monitor awareness about biodiversity, but - even more challenging - about the values of biodiversity. People may be aware of the diversity of life on Earth, but that does not automatically translate into awareness of the values of biodiversity.”

Even when different values of biodiversity are considered, some values – for example, those hard to quantify - may be left out. One example is apparent in the treatment of biodiversity “option values”. Early biodiversity literature documents the importance of option values of biodiversity; the early rationale for the term “biodiversity” refers to the “option value” of biodiversity as the value of maintaining living variation in order to provide possible future uses and benefits. Yet some recent work ignores this (for discussion, see, and so these values risk being neglected in addressing the Aichi targets.

We note that a Google search on “CBD” + "Aichi Target 1" + "option values" OR "option value", for the past year, yielded only 2 web pages.

In this context, we note also that the synthesis and framework found in the recent “Background Paper for the Trondheim Conference 1 on Biodiversity: Managing Biodiversity is About People (The Role of Social Sciences in Achieving the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets)” recommends more work to “Develop the knowledge base on biodiversity and ecosystem services valuations”. The background paper’s framework notably does not yet address option values and the needs of future generations.

Even when option value is acknowledged, it is portrayed in different ways in
existing biodiversity syntheses (compare Maier’s “What's So Good About Biodiversity? A Call for Better Reasoning About Nature's Value” to Maclaurin and Sterelny’s “What is biodiversity?”). There is currently no synthesis that recognises and reconciles these different perspectives.

These issues relate also to challenges in recognising and integrating local and global values of biodiversity (for discussion see An assessment could make more apparent the existing candidate frameworks that address these issues, given that such information currently is fragmented. An assessment and synthesis might shed light on the nature of the conflict between different perspectives and values, and also synthesise the literature that points to possible integrated approaches, from local to global, covering the whole range of biodiversity values.

Synthesis regarding alternative perspective on local-global biodiversity values is critical for addressing Targets 1 and 2. For example, one popular program ( already is influencing strategies for addressing Target 1 (e.g. Japan; IUCN). Yet, if this framework is read too narrowly, it may lead to neglect of some global values. The program advocates avoiding any mention of biodiversity loss and biodiversity intrinsic values: “Make sure you don’t slip back into selling conservation for nature’s sake” (for discussion, see ).

Others recognise that the loss of global values is an equally important part of the story. For example, Flora and Fauna International ( ) argue that “Loving nature will not be enough to save it. We have to … recognise that compromises and complex trade-offs are needed if we want to keep it.”

An effective synthesis would recognise also that the risks can cut the other way – as revealed, for example, in the SCIDIV reports ( on the recent IPBES stakeholders' meeting that highlighted dangers in neglecting local values, and the perceived need to “avoid a Western bias” and not become “ensnared by northern government agendas, private-sector lobbying or the interests of the vocal conservation sector.”

The proposed assessment/synthesis might help to de-fuse such tensions and either-or scenarios, and provide some clarity regarding existing approaches that help to integrate the full range of biodiversity values into trade-offs/synergies approaches spanning local to global scales.

An assessment/synthesis can help to overcome some popular, perhaps artificial, divisions appearing in current syntheses - such as those that portray biodiversity as all about intrinsic values, with ecosystem services responsible for capturing anthropocentric values (reviewed in An assessment could help to evaluate these frameworks through comparisons to others that recognise anthropocentric values of biodiversity. For example, a recent presentation by Georgina Mace identifies three kinds of values of biodiversity, including Intrinsic/inherent values, the “genetic library of life”, and ecosystem services values. Gretchen Daily recently outlined four kinds of values of nature. Each of these touches on aspects of option value, but blends values about nature, natural capital, and biodiversity.
The time seems to be right for providing the missing synthesis that clarifies all these perspectives on biodiversity values.

These issues also highlight the broader task of sorting out alternative meanings of biodiversity and its values, and the relationship to ecosystem services values, general values of “nature”, and values of specific elements of biodiversity (in contrast to biodiversity itself). All of these are used interchangeably in many current syntheses. As one example, TEEB (Chapter 1. Integrating the ecological and economic dimensions in biodiversity and ecosystem service valuation) states that “the term “ecosystem” is used to include “biodiversity? throughout the chapter.”

A synthesis during the early stages of IPBES could enhance links to policy by providing some clarity regarding definitions and values. In this context, we note that Mace et al (TREE) recently called for progress along these lines: “the relationship between biodiversity and the rapidly expanding research and policy field of ecosystem services is confused and is damaging efforts to create coherent policy.”
Some recent syntheses on biodiversity and ecosystem services values suggest similarities and the possibility that biodiversity values are captured under the ecosystem services “umbrella”. Others suggest that the “common ground” between the two is more likely to be achieved by recognising important differences, and then ensuring that all these diverse values are “on the table” for integrated planning and decision-making (discussed in . These unresolved issues are clearly relevant to the TARGET 2 requirement that biodiversity values have been integrated into planning processes.

Concluding comment
It will make sense to stakeholders that IPBES carries out this assessment, as it logically serves early needs for both the Aichi and IPBES work programs.
The most compelling argument for an early thematic assessment of this kind is that so much can be gained. We noted above some of the risks to IPBES and to the Aichi targets 1 and 2 arising from multiple definitions, potential ignored biodiversity values, domination of local or global concerns, etc. We suggest that provision of the missing synthesis can avoid these risks, and can point to potential strategies/frameworks that can guide integrative planning and decision-making.
Information to accompany requests submitted to the Platform

Dr Dan Faith , Senior Principal Research Scientist email:danfaith8[at]
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