Kew Gardens promises increased focus on nature-based climate solutions and biodiversity restoration
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has outlined plans for expanding research and outreach regarding nature-based climate solutions and efforts to prevent Earth's sixth mass extinction.
Earlier this year, the organisation published a manifesto for change through to 2030, including commitments to achieve a net-positive climate impact operationally and to improve communications and partnerships to tackle the twin climate and nature crises.
Kew’s five-year science strategy, published today (28 September), provides more information on how it will use its sites, activities, processes, partnerships, research and education schemes to deliver its manifesto.
“Life on Earth is in peril,” the strategy states. “Never before have so many challenges manifested themselves so clearly and intensively.”
According to WWF’s 2020 Living Planet report, animal population sizes have declined by an average of 68% since 1970. Drivers of biodiversity loss include land-use change, invasive species, overexploitation, pollution and climate change; indeed, the UN’s scientific bodies for nature and climate change are urging a more interconnected approach to solving these crises.
Detailed in Kew’s strategy are plans to expand research into biodiversity and ecosystem protection and conservation, in a manner that also improves climate resilience and improves human health and wellbeing. Kew has promised “innovative research” in these fields.
There are also plans to more deeply research plant and fungus traits, that scientists can better understand how they can be used in conservation and restoration projects, and plans to improve digital data collection and management, that Kew’s collections may be more easily used externally for conservation and education.
“The next few years provide a closing window of opportunity for societies to protect and sustainably use Earth’s remaining biodiversity and to restore what we have degraded,” said Kew’s director of science Professor Alexandre Antonelli.
“Science can provide answers to many of the challenges we face. The useful properties of plants and fungi are largely untapped and hold the potential to bring equitable benefits to people and nature.
“In this new Science Strategy, RBG Kew lays out an ambitious plan for how we can capitalise on our core assets – our unparalleled living and preserved collections, our world-class scientists and cutting-edge data – to deliver true benefits to people, the environment and the scientific community over the next five years and beyond.”
The strategy from Kew comes after the UN General Assembly and ahead of the official opening of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, which will take place online from 11-15 October. That event will include High-Level Segment discussions that will aim to produce a “Kunming Declaration” on a global biodiversity agreement. The Declaration will be ratified after in-person negotiations, which have been pushed back to spring 2022 due to Covid-19.
A draft version of the Declaration has already been published by the UN. The overarching aim is to protect at least 30% of terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030, by which point biodiversity loss will need to be halted.
Nations have collectively failed to deliver the UN’s pre-2020 Aichi Targets on biodiversity.
In an effort to change this track record domestically, the UK Government this week confirmed funding for a string of forest creation schemes.
Also announced by the UK’s Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) this week were its plans for allocating the £100m Biodiverse Landscapes Fund, which was first announced in September 2019 and is intended to preserve some of the world’s most globally significant biodiversity hotspots.
Locations set to benefit from funding include Madagascar, the Andes Amazon, the Congo Basin, Mesoamerica, Lower Mekong and the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The global population of animals is plummeting faster than at any time in human history and precious habitats and species are being wiped off our planet.
“We are at a tipping point and we must act now – right now – to turn the tide of this environmental crisis before it is too late.
“Our Biodiverse Landscapes Fund will invest in six of the most environmentally critical landscapes, spanning 18 countries across the globe, to help to combat climate change and protect rare and endangered species.”
COP26 Primer: Nature-based solutions
With COP26 on the horizon, edie has completed its Primer Report series which provides businesses with everything they need to know regarding the five key themes of the talks.
The Primer Report on Nature-based Solutions is sponsored by the Woodland Trust and examines how crucial nature-based solutions are, not just in responding to the climate crisis, but also in addressing the ecological breakdown that is exacerbating across the globe.