Improving Biodiversity Science Input into Policy

A recent editorial in Science (Vol. 325. no. 5947, p. 1474) argues persuasively that scientists must better ensure biodiversity research information reaches decision-makers. An important opportunity to improve this knowledge transfer will present itself in October, when the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hosts a meeting in Nairobi to discuss the next steps in establishing a new science/policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Unlike the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international environmental agreements which deal with biodiversity loss, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, lack a pre-convention science assessment and have no provision for subsequent government-endorsed, independent science. Thus at present we lack information on global and local trends in most biodiversity components, as well as baselines and standards for their assessment. This is an important omission which the Nairobi meeting seeks to address.

The authors argue that the participating countries at the conference should bring their best scientists along with their best policy negotiators, for a commitment to an intergovernmental science/policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services is possible only if scientists become centrally involved. Moreover, scientists in general need to not only continue to generate the science that underlies good policies, but also to become informed on policy issues that relate to their expertise and ensure that research information reaches the relevant decision-making levels of government.