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5 Feb 2024 | Press releases

Scientists have declared the Hindu Kush Himalaya, one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, a ‘biosphere on the brink’

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ICIMOD experts call for bold action and urgent finance to prevent collapse of nature in High Mountain Asia at key meeting of global biodiversity experts

Kathmandu, 4 February 2024 – Scientists have declared the Hindu Kush Himalaya, one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth, a ‘biosphere on the brink’ as a major global meeting of biodiversity experts opens in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) issued the call as over 130 global experts arrived in Nepal for the Third Lead Authors meeting of the IPBES nexus assessment, which examines the linkages between food and water security, health, biodiversity, and climate change.

Researchers at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which is hosting the meeting, describe the speed and scale of losses in nature and habitat in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, which stretches 3,500km and spans eight countries, as catastrophic. “It is almost too late,” Deputy Director General Izabella Koziell told delegates to the IPBES meeting.

“Four of the world’s 36 global biodiversity hotspots are in this region. 12 of the global 200 eco regions, 575 Protected Areas, 335 important bird areas, those figures speak for themselves. Yet we are in an accelerating crisis, despite the efforts of everyone here and many in the international community. 70% of the original biodiversity has been lost over the last century. And yet 85% of mountain communities remain dependent on this biodiversity, for food, water, flood control and cultural identity.”

“The declines in nature across this region,” says IPBES author and ICIMOD Ecosystem Services Specialist Sunita Chaudhary, “are so advanced and accelerating so fast they now pose a threat to the lives of not just animal and plant life, but also human societies.”

241 million people live in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region: 31% of whom are food insecure and half of whom face some form of malnutrition.

“This is a region that must be urgently prioritised for investment – to fund the fight to reverse nature loss and species extinction. Worldwide we’re seeing a huge uptick in investments in ecosystem restoration and a growing recognition of the role that nature plays in human survival. We must ensure that funding to the Hindu Kush Himalaya rises at an exponential rate before these fragile and crucial ecosystems collapse, by building nature into all investment and action. And we must accelerate policy, institutional and market reforms to make this happen. And also push for much more rapid increase in integrated global finance, especially for high value and vulnerable regions like the HKH.”

Chaudhary, with ICIMOD colleague, Abid Hussain, Senior Economist and Food Systems Specialist, are among the experts contributing to the nexus assessment report, whose final Lead Authors meeting will be held from 5-9 February at the regional intergovernmental centre’s headquarters in Kathmandu. The meeting is followed by a meeting to advance a summary for policymakers from 10-11 February.

This is the first time an IPBES assessment meeting is being held in South Asia and builds on the close working relationship between the Secretariat and ICIMOD. The mountain development centre has been an active and trusted partner to the global process since its foundation in 2012, operating as an Observer to the global process and contributing proactively to the past and ongoing assessments including the iconic Global Assessment, Regional Assessment for Asia and Pacific, Scenarios and Models, Pollinators, pollination and food production and Transformative change assessment among others.

“We are honoured that IPBES has chosen ICIMOD as the host for its first lead authors meeting in South Asia,” commented Izabella Koziell, Deputy Director General.

“We see this as recognition of the organisation’s sustained commitment to science diplomacy about this extraordinarily rich and fragile zone over the past 40 years. But more importantly, of the outsized contribution mountains in general and the Hindu Kush Himalaya in particular play as refuges of biodiversity, and the unprecedented risks now posed to these places and species.”

Mountains cover 22% of Earth’s land surface but hold 50% of the world’s global biodiversity hotspots. Given mountains’ acute vulnerability to climate change, ICIMOD researchers have called for IPBES to consider a dedicated Global Mountains assessment.

Notes for editors

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body, with 143 member states, established to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services. It was established in Panama City, on 21 April 2012 by 94 governments. The main objective of IPBES is to provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop biodiversity policies. IPBES – like the IPCC is for climate change – plays a crucial role in assessing and evaluating the state of global biodiversity and ecosystem services and provides guidance to inform policies and foster global collaboration.

The IPBES assessments have highlighted critical global challenges and priority actions, informing, and shaping conservation planning and priority setting across the world. The IPBES assessment on invasive species, published in 2023, highlighted the threats that some 37,000 invasive species around the world pose to nature, economy, food security, and human health. In addition to their role in causing and accelerating 60 percent of plant and animal extinctions, the annual costs of invasives was estimated at a staggering $423 billion in 2019. Similarly, the IPBES global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services, published in 2019, warned that nature was “declining at rates unprecedented in human history” and that some 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.

About ICIMOD

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is a regional knowledge development and learning centre serving the eight regional member countries of the Hindu Kush Himalaya – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan – and based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Globalisation and climate change have an increasing influence on the stability of fragile mountain ecosystems and the livelihoods of mountain people. ICIMOD aims to assist mountain people to understand these changes, adapt to them, and make the most of new opportunities, while addressing upstream-downstream issues. We support regional transboundary programmes through partnership with regional partner institutions, facilitate the exchange of experience, and serve as a regional knowledge hub. We strengthen networking among regional and global centres of excellence. Overall, we are working to develop an economically and environmentally sound mountain ecosystem to improve the living standards of mountain populations and to sustain vital ecosystem services for the billions of people living downstream – now, and for the future.

The IPBES Nexus Assessment: Process timeline

The first external review of the first draft was held from 9 January-19 February 2023. Dialogues with stakeholders, including practitioners, were held during the first external review. The second Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) dialogue was held from 17-19 January 2023 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The second author meeting was held from 20-24 March 2023 in Kruger National Park, South Africa, followed by the first meeting to advance the summary for policymakers. The second meeting to advance the summary for policymakers was held from 4-6 July 2023 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

For more information, please contact:

Annie Dare, Head of Communications, ICIMOD media@icimod.org
Neraz Tuladhar, Media Officer, ICIMOD – +977 1 5275222 EXT:115

Tags: IPBES
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