Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Review

Recently we reviewed the draft conceptual framework to guide the delivery of IPBES. The IPBES is the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services ( We recognise the challenges associated with developing this framework: while biodiversity and ecosystem services are all encompassing, they are poorly defined in theme, space, and time, and are inherently linked to society’s institutions and economy. We also acknowledge the importance of a conceptual framework for ensuring uptake and involvement of all key stakeholders of the IPBES. We applaud the expert working group who met in Bonn earlier this year for developing the draft conceptual framework and the attempt to capture the complexity inherent in the mandate for the IPBES. We also recognise the challenge of developing a conceptual framework that adds value to predecessors and that speaks to the four core functions of the IPBES .

Our review focused on three themes:

1.      Treatment of biodiversity: including definitions and relationship with ecosystem services

2.      Treatment of spatial and temporal scales

3.      Knowledge generation and decision making: including emphasis on how decisions are made and the importance of scenarios.

You can see the full content of our review here. We grouped our comments in relation to these themes, and attempted to clearly outline suggested actions to redress them. In some cases the three themes were interconnected. In an attempt to clarify our suggestions, we (well, mainly Liz!) developed a revisedschematic of the conceptual framework based on our comments (see below). We are looking forward to contributing to other intersessional activities of the IPBES – it was fun to gather our thoughts on how we conceptualise ecosystem services and biodiversity and the important role that imagining potential futures has in bridging the science-policy interface.



Making decisions to conserve species under climate change

Shoo, L.P., Hoffmann, A.A., Garnett, S., Pressey, R.L., Williams, Y.M., Taylor, M., Falconi, L., Yates, C.J., Scott, J.K., Alagador, D., Williams, S.E. (2013), Making decisions to conserve species under climate change. Climatic Change. February 2013.


Severe impacts on biodiversity are predicted to arise from climate change. These impacts may not be adequately addressed by conventional approaches to conservation. As a result, additional management actions are now being considered. However, there is currently limited guidance to help decision makers choose which set of actions (and in what order) is most appropriate for species that are considered to be vulnerable. Here, we provide a decision framework for the full complement of actions aimed at conserving species under climate change from ongoing conservation in existing refugia through various forms of mobility enhancement to ex situ conservation outside the natural environment. We explicitly recognize that allocation of conservation resources toward particular actions may be governed by factors such as the likelihood of success, cost and likely co-benefits to non-target species in addition to perceived vulnerability of individual species. As such, we use expert judgment of probable tradeoffs in resource allocation to inform the sequential evaluation of proposed management interventions.

Avoiding bio-perversity from carbon sequestration solutions

David B. Lindenmayer, Kristin B. Hulvey, Richard J. Hobbs, Mark Colyvan, Adam Felton, Hugh Possingham, Will Steffen, Kerrie Wilson, Kara Youngentob, Philip Gibbons. 2012. Avoiding bio-perversity from carbon sequestration solutions. Conservation Letters 5:28-36.  DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2011.00213.x


The development of a new carbon economy has the potential to offer win–win outcomes for environments and economies. Large-scale tree plantations are expected to play a major role in carbon economies but could have negative ecological and economic consequences when key environmental values such as biodiversity conservation are not considered. We discuss three potential “bio-perversities”—negative outcomes for biodiversity—that could result from inappropriate plantation tree programs aimed solely at reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and mitigating rapid climate change effects. These are: (1) clearing native vegetation to establish tree plantations, (2) planting trees that become invasive taxa, and (3) tree plantations negatively affecting key ecosystem processes such as fire and hydrological regimes. These bio-perversities may result from common mistakes in environmental management: (1) too narrow a focus on a single environmental value, (2) failing to adequately quantify ecological uncertainty, and (3) failing to anticipate how different groups of people respond to an environmental problem. We highlight ways to prevent possible bio-perverse outcomes in large-scale plantation programs. These include requiring that risk assessments precede project establishment, full carbon accounting is undertaken, incentives used to stimulate tree plantation establishment are rigorously examined, and rigorous compliance and ecological monitoring is undertaken.

Figure 1. Native woodland removal in southeastern Australia on semi-cleared agricultural land (a–d), followed by the establishment of a Radiata Pine (Pinus radiata) plantation (e,f). This plantation was established for paper pulp and timber production, but also was claimed as a carbon offset (g). Patches of temperate woodland support large numbers of declining bird species and such vegetation types have been listed as threatened ecological communities since vegetation clearing for plantation establishment in this image. The sign shown in (g) reads: “This carbon sink plantation, established and managed by State Forests of NSW, is one of several measures to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions”. (Photos by David Lindenmayer)

The Effect of Carbon Credits on Savanna Land Management and Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation

Douglass, L. L., H. P. Possingham, J. Carwardine, C. J. Klein, S. H. Roxburgh, J. Russell-Smith, and K. A. Wilson. 2011. The Effect of Carbon Credits on Savanna Land Management and Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. PLoS ONE 6:e23843. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023843


Carbon finance offers the potential to change land management and conservation planning priorities. We develop a novel approach to planning for improved land management to conserve biodiversity while utilizing potential revenue from carbon biosequestration. We apply our approach in northern Australia’s tropical savanna, a region of global significance for biodiversity and carbon storage, both of which are threatened by current fire and grazing regimes. Our approach aims to identify priority locations for protecting species and vegetation communities by retaining existing vegetation and managing fire and grazing regimes at a minimum cost. We explore the impact of accounting for potential carbon revenue (using a carbon price of US$14 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent) on priority areas for conservation and the impact of explicitly protecting carbon stocks in addition to biodiversity. Our results show that improved management can potentially raise approximately US$5 per hectare per year in carbon revenue and prevent the release of 1–2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over approximately 90 years. This revenue could be used to reduce the costs of improved land management by three quarters or double the number of biodiversity targets achieved and meet carbon storage targets for the same cost. These results are based on generalised cost and carbon data; more comprehensive applications will rely on fine scale, site-specific data and a supportive policy environment. Our research illustrates that the duel objective of conserving biodiversity and reducing the release of greenhouse gases offers important opportunities for cost-effective land management investments.

A comparison of the difference in selection frequency, a measure of investment priority, between scenarios 1 and 2.

Resolving the ‘Environmentalist’s Paradox’, and the role of ecologists in advancing economic thinking

Megan Evans

Cross posted on

Aldo Leopold famously described the curse of an ecological education as “to be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise”.

© T. Toles

Ecologists do have a tendency for making dire warnings for the future, but for anyone concerned about the myriad of problems currently facing the Earth — climate change, an ongoing wave of species extinctions and impending peak oil, phosphate, water , (everything?) crises – the continued ignorance or ridicule of such warnings can be a frustrating experience. Environmental degradation and ecological overshoot isn’t just about losing cute plants and animals, given the widespread acceptance that long term human wellbeing ultimately rests on the ability for the Earth to supply us with ecosystem services.

In light of this doom and gloom, things were shaken up a bit late last year when an article1 published in Bioscience pointed out that in spite of declines in the majority of ecosystem services considered essential to human wellbeing by The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), aggregate human wellbeing (as measured by the Human Development Index) has risen continuously over the last 50 years. Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne and the co-authors of the study suggested that these conflicting trends presented an ‘environmentalist’s paradox’ of sorts – do we really depend on nature to the extent that ecologists have led everyone to believe?

Continue reading Resolving the ‘Environmentalist’s Paradox’, and the role of ecologists in advancing economic thinking

Wanted: another planet Earth by 2030

Megan Evans

The latest Living Planet Report was released yesterday by WWF and the Global Footprint Network, which finds we are now using resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate 50 percent faster than the Earth can sustain.

Key terms used in the 2010 Living Planet Report (by wordle) © WWF / Wordle


Continue reading Wanted: another planet Earth by 2030