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June 18, 2010

I’ve just returned from the South Korean portal city of Busan where I participated in a week of intense negotiations that resulted in governments agreeing to establish a new mechanism to strengthen the dialogue between the scientific community and policymakers on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The new Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) aims  to be for biodiversity and ecosystems what the IPCC is for climate change, namely a leading body offering policy relevant and legitimate, scientifically credible information to inform decision-makers with options and scenario s on biodiversity and ecosystem services, around the world.

In my view BioFresh is optimally positioned to become a crucial scientific partner of this IPBES. This is because we share the goal of providing access to data, information, and our scientific tools may, in the end, contribute to the IPBES assessments. In addition, we may contribute to the capacity development component of IPBES.  No doubt there are other ways we could contribute to supporting the vision of IPBES and also take this opportunity to generate more visibility for freshwater biodiversity in international policy. Please contribute your ideas.

Hendrik Segers

For further information, see the IPBES website, the IISD website,  the IUCN press release and the  BBC news website.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Jepson permalink
    June 18, 2010 14:57

    Thanks for the post. For fun I fed two key documents prepared for the Bonsan meeting (available at into

    The first titled “Options for improving the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services”) produced a tag cloud (see key words and associated frequencies below) suggesting that in simple terms the IPBES can be thought of as a “Platform for scientific assessments relevant to intergovernmental agreements”

    created at

    A couple of comments in the document “Analysis of the assessment landscape for biodiversity and ecosystem services” caught my eye and interest.

    First, was the emphasis on “Scientific credibility”. For example this appears under key lessons learnt (f) and is articulated as “as how can the information, methods and procedures maintain high scientific quality in a balanced and transparent way?”. Whilst under the heading “communication to key audiences” is the statement that “communication needs to be based on strong scientific credibility, as indicated by the recent problems that IPCC has suffered due to relatively minor issues”. This last comment is an obvious reference to ClimateGate but these statements and the creation of the IPBES could also be interpreted as a reaction to the practice of different policy advocates using the same science to support their sometimes radically different agendas and analysis (see e.g. Roger Pilke’s book (2007) The honest broker: making sense of science in policy and politics).

    Second was the notion of ‘assessment fatigue’ and the comment (point 192) that “Some Governments, and scientists, are beginning to complain of what they have termed `assessment fatigue` and it appears likely that few people actually read the full assessment documents, preferring the relatively brief and well-illustrated synthesis volumes.” From a communication perspective this is an important point for BioFresh and one we may wish to reflect on when conceptualising the Atlas.

    Paul Jepson

    • Núria BONADA permalink
      June 24, 2010 10:37

      Thanks for the info Hendrik and Paul!

      Great opportunity for BioFresh!

      More about IPBES in Nature:

      Núria Bonada

    • July 15, 2010 03:49

      I would like to react on one particular point mentioned by Paul about the assessment fatigue, i.e., academics are tired to be requested to read assessments.

      I don’t think we need any more assessment to carry out actions to better manage our biodiversity. It is obvious that we are in a biodiversity crisis, and that we know many human causes on which we can have control over with already known and adapted solutions. Lacks the political will at all levels of the society.

      – Would we convince more with additional knowledge?
      – Do we need more knowledge?

      The answers are no and yes respectively.

      1) Will we convince more with additional knowledge?

      The point is that we do need actions now to be elaborated eye-to-eye with governments, high management levels in industry, and education communities.

      To do that, we don’t need more knowledge, we do know, not everything, but enough to say we need reaction from the society. Could we do more than the Millennium Assessment? Is it worth it?

      I heard many good presentations by colleagues with convincing evidences that no reasonable human could deny, even if there is no case where one party is black and the other white. It is always a balance between various forces, and a multidimensional systemic issue, hence difficult to explain in a simple way and to address, especially in developing countries where poverty is a main issue. Unfortunately, these presentations are always given to a public already convinced, because in academic meetings, congresses, etc. These presentations must be made in the front of high(est) level delegates of governments and administration, of industry and financial communities, and education representatives, including in high schools and universities where political and industrial managers are educated and trained. It is very important that the biodiversity component is integrated early, which is not the case anymore since more than half of humanity lives in urban areas deprived from its biodiversity, or even cut from it (and most high managers come from urban areas …).

      In general, the society does not want to move because of profitable benefits (and “benefitable” profits) gained from socio-economic drivers, and this, at all levels of the society, from poor to rich people. There are here and there some successes, e.g., seafood guides begin to have some impact. But it is a drop in the ocean.

      About the assessment, personally yes I don’t want to read assessments anymore because I know already the conclusions, not in details, but in general. And it depresses me to read bad news again and again without being convinced that actions are undertaken at the correct (high) level. And without these undertaken actions, what is the point of making new assessments?

      Now the question is: are the scientists the very ones who should actually perform these actions? Can scientists mix political implications with their scientific attitude and work? Can they even trigger the political debate? I don’t have the answer but my feeling is that they should be part of it, working in close collaboration with people who would act as message conveyors and action catalysts. Maybe artists could help a lot in conveying message under a form that would be more receivable by authorities and public, as long as they are based on sound scientific knowledge (see TippingPoint 2006).

      2) Do we need more knowledge?

      Definitely yes. If we know already the principles and causes of biodiversity losses, careful work for data and information gathering must be undertaken locally, on the basis of general theories. And according to the usual scientific popperian process of falsification, these data may help to refine or revolution the paradigms after their analyses.
      But we also need more data to elaborate finer global syntheses to explore better and other solutions. Hence the BioFresh platform will fill a gap in the domain of freshwater biodiversity.

      In summary, we don’t need more knowledge to start, trigger, initiate, elaborate actions for a better biodiversity management, but we need more knowledge to propose answers at local level improve the current solutions, and to develop new ones at global level.

      • Paul Jepson permalink
        July 26, 2010 15:44

        I tend to agree with Nicolas that long written assessments are past there sell by date. However, I’m also of the view that assessments are vital if science is to influence and input into policy. For me the question is what form should our assessments take to be effective?

        The BirdLife Red List Index is an interesting example. It conflates the complexity of factors threatening bird species into a single trend graph that allows comparision with other macro-policy indicators relating to economic growth, population demographics etc.

        As scientists I suggest we need to ditch the long-winded narratives in favour of savy graphical, mapped or other visual assessments that convey the headline message(s)to general policy audiences.

        Paul Jepson

  2. Muriel permalink
    July 28, 2010 14:51

    The report of the third ad hoc intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting on an IPBES, is now available from the IPBES website at

    It includes the “Busan Outcome” document in its Annex, which has been transmitted to the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session for consideration. It is expected that the Busan outcome will be presented and considered at the high level segment on biodiversity as well as the regular session of the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session later this year.

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