50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions worldwide - Experts provide options for sustainable use



Negotiations at the 9th IPBES Plenary meeting, World Conference Center, Bonn, Germany (Image: IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera)
50,000 wild species meet the needs of billions worldwide - Experts provide options for sustainable use
post by
Kelle Moreau

On 8 July 2022, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published the new Sustainable Use of Wild Species Assessment Report. It summarises the feasibility and options for sustainable use of wild species of algae, animals, fungi and plants on land, in freshwater and in the oceans worldwide.

One fifth of the world's population directly depends on wild species for income and food. More than 10,000 wild species are harvested for human food. 2.4 billion people (1 in 3) depend on firewood for cooking. These are just some of the figures that illustrate how much we depend on our natural environment, but they also illustrate the great pressure we exert on it. So the accelerating global biodiversity crisis, with a million plant and animal species facing extinction, also threatens us.

In the new Sustainable Use of Wild Species Assessment Report, experts summarise the feasibility of, and options for, sustainable use of wild species worldwide. The report was adopted on 7 July 2022 by 139 Member States at the 9th IPBES plenary meeting, that took place in Bonn, Germany (#IPBES9, 3-9 July). 85 leading experts from more than 50 countries worked on it over four years.

The report reviews past trends, presents the current situation and projects future scenarios for wild algae, animal, fungi and plant species, and aims to provide information on policy options and conditions for sustainable use at national to global level.

More specifically, the report addresses the following aspects:

  • It describes the various uses of wild species and the practices associated with them, including fishing, gathering, logging, and harvesting of terrestrial animals
  • It examines what "sustainable use" means and how it relates to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Tools and methods for assessing, measuring and managing the sustainable use of wild species are being looked into
  • It compares the effectiveness of different policy options to better regulate the sustainable use of wild species
  • The drivers of sustainability are highlighted (including governance, trade and incentives)
  • It documents why, and for whom, sustainable use of wild species is of particular importance
  • It looks at links between sustainable use of wildlife and key challenges such as land use and climate change
  • Knowledge gaps in relation to promoting sustainable use of wildlife species are identified
Policy options

International, national, regional and local policymakers, as well as international conventions such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), need data on the sustainability of wildlife use. The new report responds to this, and builds on previous IPBES assessments, including the 2019 global assessment which highlighted how direct exploitation of species is one of the main causes of high extinction rates.

As part of the analysis, the report then also examines policies and tools used in a variety of contexts in relation to the sustainable use of wildlife species. It presents seven key elements that can be used as levers for change if scaled up across practices, regions and sectors:

  • Policies must be inclusive and participatory
  • The policy should recognise and support multiple forms of knowledge
  • Policy instruments should lead to a fair distribution of costs and benefits
  • Context-specific policies are needed
  • Monitoring of wild species and practices remains important
  • Policy instruments must be geographically aligned, and coherent and consistent with international obligations
  • Robust institutions are necessary


IPBES and the Belgian interpretation

IPBES, often described as the 'IPCC for Biodiversity', is the global science-policy body whose mission is to strengthen the interface between science and policy on biodiversity, and thus provide decision-makers with the best available evidence to support decisions that benefit both people and nature. In Belgium, the IPBES National Focal Point is hosted by the Belgian Biodiversity Platform, a national science-policy interface funded by BelSPO and hosted by four organisations: BelSPO, RBINS, INBO, and DEMNA (SPW). The activities of the National Focal Point include involving Belgian experts and stakeholders in the IPBES work programme and activities, and leading the Belgian delegation in plenary sessions.



Dr. Luc Janssens de Bisthoven, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences - “With the new report on the 'Sustainable Use of Wild Species', IPBES has once again made a global effort to inform policy-makers about the latest scientific insights. The assessment is essential for taking a holistic, balanced and inclusive view of nature, as a provider of multiple benefits and with its own intrinsic value. The assessment will help transform current economic models so that they take more account of external costs such as pollution, biodiversity loss, health care and climate change. This can contribute to a more resilient and greener world, with greater respect for life and planetary boundaries".

Catherine Debruyne, Public Service Wallonia - “Billions of people from all over the world rely on and use wild species for food, medicine, energy, income and many other purposes. However, since 1970, direct exploitation of wildlife has become the biggest threat to nature in marine ecosystems and the second biggest threat in terrestrial ecosystems. This puts human benefits at risk, as the depletion of resources affects their livelihoods and well-being, and threatens the achievement of future social and environmental goals. The IPBES assessment identifies challenges and opportunities to secure and enhance the sustainable use of wild species, and stresses that we must meet this challenge in the context of increasing global trade. With this information at hand, all actors, from governments to the private sector and civil society, must step up efforts to prevent unsustainable and illegal use, harvesting and trade of wild species. This is essential to halting the loss of biodiversity and preserving the potential of ecosystem services for people.”

Sophie Gryseels, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences - “Humans are intrinsically linked to the natural world and, directly or indirectly, make use of a large number of species for their livelihoods. The extent to which the exploitation of natural populations of plants, animals and other organisms is detrimental to the survival of the species and may ultimately have a negative impact on humans is a very complicated question. The effect depends very much on the level of exploitation, undoubtedly varies greatly depending on the species and ecosystem concerned, and must be demonstrably balanced against the positive effects for humans. Knowledge about this complex web of impacts of natural species use is rather fragmented and a comprehensive overview is greatly needed to thoroughly assess the current situation, inform policy makers and identify the knowledge gaps that researchers should focus on in the future. I eagerly awaited the IPBES report on the sustainable use of wild species to provide comprehensive and balanced information on the negative and positive impacts of natural species use.”

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