12 Feb 2020 Story Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Big international gathering will home in on migratory species

Photo by Carolyn Weiss/ICCF

From whale sharks to Monarch butterflies, many animals are hardwired to migrate along set routes in search of food or a breeding area—and in some cases they’ve been doing this for tens of millions of years. The Arctic tern migrates the longest distances of any animal, flying over 25,000 km each year.

In the last 150 years or so, human activity and associated pollution, and human-induced climate change, have been reducing and altering habitats that had previously changed only very slowly over millennia. Many migratory species rely on wetlands as stepping stones en route to their final destination, but these ecosystems, like many others, are coming under increasing pressure.

As habitats change or shrink—North America is thought to have lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970, including many migratory ones—the biodiversity emergency has reached a tipping point. “The rate of species loss is exponentially higher than at any time in the past 10 million years,” says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

“The stakes are high,” says Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

“The targets we set and the level of political will that we mobilize will determine whether or not we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals—the very highest ideals humanity has set. And importantly, this is the year when we overcome the silos because the biodiversity agenda is a climate agenda, and a climate agenda is a biodiversity agenda. Species loss exemplifies these inter-linkages. If we destroy the ecosystems and habitats that species need to thrive, then we destroy our own support system, putting many of the Goals beyond reach.”

A major early milestone in "super year" for biodiversity is a major international conference and associated meetings on migratory species taking place from 15 to 22 February 2020 in Gandhinagar, India.

The official title of the meeting is the Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13). It opens on 17 February 2020.

The Conference will bring together parties to the convention, partners and scientific experts to address the alarming decline around the world of wild animals that cross national borders, including birds, aquatic species and terrestrial animals.

The gathering’s theme, “Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home”, underscores the importance of collective action to protect such species, as well as the way that migratory species connect places, nations and people.

The meeting provides an opportunity to consider how the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Migratory Species 2015–2023 can be mutually supportive.

Nature-based solutions offer the best way to achieve human well-being, tackle climate change and protect our living planet. Yet nature is in crisis, as we are losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history and one million species face extinction. In addition to important moments for decision makers, including the COP 15 on Biodiversity, the 2020 “super year” is a major opportunity to bring nature back from the brink. The future of humanity depends on action now.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and partners such as the Africa Restoration 100 initiative, the Global Landscapes Forum and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, covers terrestrial as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. A global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. Help us shape the Decade.

For more information, please contact Lisa Rolls: [email protected]