Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all rely on Nature. We rely on Nature to provide us with food, water and shelter; to regulate our climate and control disease; to maintain nutrient cycles and oxygen production; and to provide us with spiritual fulfilment and opportunities for recreation, among many other examples. Put simply: without Nature, there would be no life.
Biodiversity plays an important role in the provision of many of the services we receive from Nature, known today as ecosystem services or nature’s contributions to people. Just as diversity within a portfolio of financial assets reduces risk and uncertainty, diversity within a portfolio of natural assets – biodiversity – directly and indirectly increases Nature’s resilience to shocks, reducing risks to the services on which we rely. Biodiversity is an essential characteristic of Nature. The economics of biodiversity is therefore the economics of Nature.
But Nature’s resilience is being severely eroded, with biodiversity declining faster than at any time in human history. In the past four decades, there has on average been a 60% decline in the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, mostly in the tropics. The estimated number of wild bee species worldwide has fallen from 6,700 in the 1950s to only 3,400 in the 2010s. It is thought that one million animal and plant species (approximately 25%) are threatened with extinction in most of the animal and plant groups that have been studied. Current extinction rates are around 100 to 1,000 times higher than average over the past several million years – and they are accelerating.
The Dasgupta Review will explore the sustainability of our engagements with Nature – what we take from it; how we transform what we take from it and return to it; why we have disrupted Nature’s processes; and what we must urgently do differently to enhance our collective wealth and well-being, and that of our descendants.