Nature Positive by 2030: How can we know if there is more nature in 2020 than there is now?

By Gavin Edwards, Director, Global Nature Positive Initiative, WWF International

© naturepl.com / Anup Shah / WWF

Imagine a world where nature and people support each other. Lush environments provide a home for a vast range of different plants and animals that in turn replenish natural resources such as clean water and healthy soils, providing healthy food for all.

But human activities are causing a rapid decline in nature, breaking this cycle. If this trend continues, we stand to lose far more than we bargained for — our lives and that of the natural world are so inextricably linked that our health, homes and wellbeing will be seriously undermined. We lose nature, we lose ourselves.

But we can turn things around. We can set nature on the path to recovery, so that there is more nature in the world than there was in 2020. We can be nature positive by 2030, for the benefit of all people and the planet.

This year the world has a critical opportunity — the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is an action plan being developed for nature, and a lifeline to securing a nature-positive world by 2030. It is our chance to align all sectors in society, business and governments with this ambitious target and deliver transformative actions to reverse the loss of biodiversity.

More nature in 2030, how do we know?

We know how to measure the state of nature in 2020 with enough detail to know whether we have made things better or worse by 2030.

Looking at three key outcomes — natural processes, ecosystems and species — gives us a complete picture of our natural world. Of course, there will always be gaps in the data, but there are systems in place already that allow us to measure things like the movement of sediment in riverine environments, how far certain habitats stretch, the quality of those habitats and the abundance of species such as those at risk of extinction. Analyzing these indicators and data over this decade will show whether we are moving towards a nature-positive world by 2030.

If the trends in these three key areas improve (or in some cases, simply maintained in a healthy state) then we can confidently say that we are heading towards a nature-positive outcome. For example, instead of less forest cover in 2030 than in 2020, there is more. Instead of numerous species of shark approaching extinction, their populations are recovering. Instead of redirecting and disturbing rivers, water systems are allowed to flow naturally.

© Green Renaissance / WWF-US

Mangroves — coastal heros

Let’s take mangroves as an example. Mangroves can help deal with challenging natural processes that threaten the balance of our world, like hurricanes and flooding. They provide coastal protection, safeguarding homes from storm swells and even mitigating against climate change with their ability to sequester carbon.

Mangroves also play a critical role in coastal ecosystems. Further out to sea, mangroves neighbors are seagrass meadows and coral reefs. These environments are vital for fish to move between throughout their life cycles. For example, many parrotfish species depend on mangroves as nursery areas, moving to coral reefs and seagrass meadows as they grow.

Protecting and restoring mangroves are vital for the functioning of the marine ecosystem, and its inhabitants, but the benefits also extend to people. The mangroves provide a food source, protect us from storms, and sequester carbon to tackle climate change. Supporting mangrove conservation — to have more mangroves in the right places and ensuring they are healthy — can help us maintain and improve natural processes, ecosystems and species. By measuring this key data we can assess if we are moving towards a nature-positive outcome.

© Paul Mckenzie / WWF-HK

Sharks and a healthy ocean

Sharks are essential to keeping our oceans healthy. They have a ‘top down’ impact on the food chain, predating on large fish so that there’s less pressure on smaller fish, allowing them to graze on the algae on corals which keeps them healthy.

More sharks in an ecosystem helps maintain the coral health, and keep in balance the assemblage of all the other species in this community. They are known as an indicator species, as are species such as black bears in the Rocky Mountains of North America and tigers in the Sundarban delta of India.

If we halt the loss of sharks and other indicator species, and reverse the risk of species extinction, we support the healthy functioning of ecosystems. Increasing the number of species and maintaining healthy ecosystems are measurable actions that support the planet in moving towards a nature-positive outcome.

Nature Positive by 2030

Actions that maintain and improve natural processes, ecosystems and species will undoubtedly lead to more nature in the world than in 2020, and a nature-positive future for all.

The Global Biodiversity Framework plays an important role in guiding these actions. It must be people and nature positive because we cannot exist separately. Action to reach nature-positive outcomes requires positive actions from all corners of society, with rights and roles of Indigenous Peoples and local communities recognized and directly benefiting from these actions.

Read more on what WWF sees as essential components of a transformative Global Biodiversity Framework.

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