Danish nature efforts blasted in wake of damning UN report – The Post

Danish nature efforts blasted in wake of damning UN report

A million animal and plant species worldwide in risk of extinction

UN: the sun is setting on a million animal and plant species (photo: Pixabay)
May 7th, 2019 10:51 am| by Christian W

Following the release of a UN report that contends a million animal and plant species worldwide are teetering on the brink of extinction, Denmark’s nature and biodiversity efforts have been called into question.

According to the Danish Society for Nature Conservation (DSNC), as the world’s second-most land-cultivated country (in 2013, Naturstyrelsen claimed it was 64 percent – only Bangladesh uses a higher percentage of its land for agriculture) Denmark must step up its nature efforts.

“The most important task for the coming Parliament is to ensure significantly greater areas for nature. So we’ve teamed up with the agriculture sector in an earth reform, which will transfer farming land into nature,” said Maria Reumert Gjerding, the head of DSNC.

“We have so few areas in Denmark dedicated to nature; most of our threatened species live in the forests, but are being marginalised by intensive wood production. It will take a massive effort to set aside more areas for untouched forest.”

READ ALSO: Minister wants more woodlands near cities

Not too late … yet
The UN report, produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ipbes), was compiled by researchers from more than 50 countries, and it is the first of its kind.

The substantial report is 1,800 pages long and draws from nearly 15,000 sources from research and authorities.

“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point,” said Sandra Díaz (Argentina), one of the 145 experts behind the report.

“The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet.”

The environment and nature minister, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, said that the government has set aside 14,000 hectares of untouched forest in Denmark in recent years, though he admitted more is needed to be done.

You can read the UN report here (in English) and check out some key stats from the report in the factbox below.

Key stats from UN report:


75%: terrestrial environment “severely altered” to date by human actions (marine environments 66%)

47%: reduction in global indicators of ecosystem extent and condition against their estimated natural baselines, with many continuing to decline by at least 4% per decade

28%: global land area held and/or managed by indigenous peoples , including >40% of formally protected areas and 37% of all remaining terrestrial areas with very low human intervention

+/-60 billion: tonnes of renewable and non-renewable resources extracted globally each year, up nearly 100% since 1980

15%: increase in global per capita consumption of materials since 1980

>85%: of wetlands present in 1700 had been lost by 2000 – loss of wetlands is currently three times faster, in percentage terms, than forest loss.

Species, Populations and Varieties of Plants and Animals

8 million: total estimated number of animal and plant species on Earth (including 5.5 million insect species)

Tens to hundreds of times: the extent to which the current rate of global species extinction is higher compared to average over the last 10 million years, and the rate is accelerating

Up to 1 million: species threatened with extinction, many within decades

>500,000 (+/-9%): share of the world’s estimated 5.9 million terrestrial species with insufficient habitat for long term survival without habitat restoration

>40%: amphibian species threatened with extinction

Almost 33%: reef -orming corals, sharks and shark relatives, and >33% marine mammals threatened with extinction

25%: average proportion of species threatened with extinction across terrestrial, freshwater and marine vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups that have been studied in sufficient detail

At least 680: vertebrate species driven to extinction by human actions since the 16th century

+/-10%: tentative estimate of proportion of insect species threatened with extinction

>20%: decline in average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes, mostly since 1900
+/-560 (+/-10%): domesticated breeds of mammals were extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more threatened

5%: domesticated breed of birds extinct by 2016

70%: increase since 1970 in numbers of invasive alien species across 21 countries with detailed records

30%: reduction in global terrestrial habitat integrity caused by habitat loss and deterioration

47%: proportion of terrestrial flightless mammals and 23% of threatened birds whose distributions may have been negatively impacted by climate change already

>6: species of ungulate (hoofed mammals) would likely be extinct or surviving only in captivity today without conservation measures

Food and Agriculture

300%: increase in food crop production since 1970

23%: land areas that have seen a reduction in productivity due to land degradation

>75%: global food crop types that rely on animal pollination

US$235 to US$577 billion: annual value of global crop output at risk due to pollinator loss

6 gigatons: annual CO2 emissions sequestered in marine and terrestrial ecosystems – equivalent to 60% of global fossil fuel emission

+/-11%: world population that is undernourished

100 million: hectares of agricultural expansion in the tropics from 1980 to 2000, mainly cattle ranching in Latin America (+/-42 million ha), and plantations in Southeast Asia (+/-7.5 million ha, of which 80% is oil palm), half of it at the expense of intact forests

3%: increase in land transformation to agriculture between 1992 and 2015, mostly at the expense of orests

>33%: world’s land surface (and +/-75% of freshwater resources) devoted to crop or livestock production

12%: world’s ice-free land used for crop production

25%: world’s ice-free land used for grazing (+/-70% of drylands)

+/-25%: greenhouse gas emissions caused by land clearing, crop production and fertilization, with animal-based food contributing 75% to that figure

+/-30%: global crop production and global food supply provided by small land holdings (<2 ha), using +/-25% of agricultural land, usually maintaining rich agrobiodiversity

$100 billion: estimated level of financial support in OECD countries (2015) to agriculture that is potentially harmful to the environment

Oceans and Fishing

33%: marine fish stocks in 2015 being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% are maximally sustainably fished; 7% are underfished

>55%: ocean area covered by industrial fishing

3-10%: projected decrease in ocean net primary production due to climate change alone by the end of the century

3-25%: projected decrease in fish biomass by the end of the century in low and high climate warming scenarios, respectively

>90%: proportion of the global commercial fishers accounted for by small scale fisheries (over 30 million people) – representing nearly 50% of global fish catch

Up to 33%: estimated share in 2011 of world’s reported fish catch that is illegal, unreported or unregulated

>10%: decrease per decade in the extent of seagrass meadows from 1970-2000

+/-50%: live coral cover of reefs lost since 1870s

100-300 million: people in coastal areas at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection

400: low oxygen (hypoxic) coastal ecosystem ‘dead zones’ caused by fertilizers, affecting >245,000 km2

29%: average reduction in the extinction risk for mammals and birds in 109 countries thanks to conservation investments from 1996 to 2008; the extinction risk of birds, mammals and amphibians would have been at least 20% greater without conservation action in recent decade

>107: highly threatened birds, mammals and reptiles estimated to have benefitted from the eradication of invasive mammals on islands


45%: increase in raw timber production since 1970 (4 billion cubic meters in 2017)

+/-13 million: forestry industry jobs

50%: agricultural expansion that occurred at the expense of forests

50%: decrease in net rate of forest loss since the 1990s (excluding those managed for timber or agricultural extraction)

68%: global forest area today compared with the estimated pre-industrial level

7%: reduction of intact forests (>500 sq. km with no human pressure) from 2000-2013 in developed and developing countries

290 million ha (+/-6%): native forest cover lost from 1990-2015 due to clearing and wood harvesting

110 million ha: rise in the area of planted forests from 1990-2015

10-15%: global timber supplies provided by illegal forestry (up to 50% in some areas)

>2 billion: people who rely on wood fuel to meet their primary energy needs

Mining and Energy

<1%: total land used for mining, but the industry has significant negative impacts on biodiversity, emissions, water quality and human health

+/-17,000: large-scale mining sites (in 171 countries), mostly managed by 616 international corporations

+/-6,500: offshore oil and gas ocean mining installations ((in 53 countries)

US$345 billion: global subsidies for fossil fuels resulting in US$5 trillion in overall costs, including nature deterioration externalities; coal accounts for 52% of post-tax subsidies, petroleum for +/-33% and natural gas for +/-10%

Urbanization, Development and Socioeconomic Issues

>100%: growth of urban areas since 1992

25 million km: length of new paved roads foreseen by 2050, with 90% of construction in least developed and developing countries

+/-50,000: number of large dams (>15m height) ; +/-17 million reservoirs (>0.01 ha)

105%: increase in global human population (from 3.7 to 7.6 billion) since 1970 unevenly across countries and regions

50 times higher: per capita GDP in developed vs. least developed countries

>2,500: conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land currently occurring worldwide

>1,000: environmental activists and journalists killed between 2002 and 2013


70%: proportion of cancer drugs that are natural or synthetic products inspired by nature

+/-4 billion: people who rely primarily on natural medicines

17%: infectious diseases spread by animal vectors, causing >700,000 annual deaths

+/-821 million: people face food insecurity in Asia and Africa

40%: of the global population lacks access to clean and safe drinking water

>80%: global wastewater discharged untreated into the environment

300-400 million tons: heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes from industrial facilities dumped annually into the world’s waters

10 times: increase in plastic pollution since 1980

Climate Change

1 degree Celsius: average global temperature difference in 2017 compared to pre-industrial levels, rising +/-0.2 (+/-0.1) degrees Celsius per decade

>3 mm: annual average global sea level rise over the past two decades

16-21 cm: rise in global average sea level since 1900

100% increase since 1980 in greenhouse gas emissions, raising average global temperature by at least 0.7 degree

40%: rise in carbon footprint of tourism (to 4.5Gt of carbon dioxide) from 2009 to 2013

8%: of total greenhouse gas emissions are from transport and food consumption related to tourism

5%: estimated fraction of species at risk of extinction from 2°C warming  alone, rising to 16% at 4.3°C warming

Even for global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, the majority of terrestrial species ranges are projected to shrink profoundly.

Global Goals

Most: Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 likely to be missed

22 of 44: assessed targets under the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, ocean and land are being undermined by substantial negative trends in nature and its contributions to people

72%: of local indicators in nature developed and used by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities that show negative trends

4: number of Aichi Targets where good progress has been made on certain components, with moderate progress on some components of another 7 targets, poor progress on all components of 6 targets, and insufficient information to assess progress on some or all components of the remaining 3 targets