iDiv researchers' messages to the UN Biodiversity Conference CBD COP 15

    From 7 to 19 December 2022, the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) will take place in Montréal, Canada. The conference will set the course for the management of biodiversity and ecosystems over the next years. The new post2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) will replace the so-called AICHI targets 2011-2020 and will set the political framework for global nature conservation policy.

    The draft treaty to be negotiated includes action targets that are subject of various disciplines of biodiversity research. With their work, iDiv scientists contribute significantly to the knowledge base needed to implement the goals. During COP15, iDiv researchers will address the negotiators with statements from their professional perspective.

    The statements will successively appear on and on this website.

    »Global Biodiversity framework was approved by CBD COP15. Extraordinary achievement of the global policy and scientific community. Now the hard work starts: implementing those targets and goals.

    The text retains much of the original ambition, particularly the parts that I felt were more solid and important. I am particularly glad to see that the ambition for “all areas”  under integrated spatial planning remained in Target 1. And that reducing species extinction by tenfold by 2050 stays at the core of goal A.

    Ambitious restoration (Target 2), protected area (Target 3) and endangered species (Target 4) targets. And ambitious Target 10 on agriculture that still recognises the need for sustainable intensification in some areas.

    Particularly glad to see monitoring mentioned in several targets, particularly Target 20 and 21. This is a huge win for the multi-year efforts of GEOBON to raise the importance of biodiversity monitoring.

    And 19a promises 30 billion Dollars (the currency choice is unfortunate for obvious reasons) annually of financial flows from developed to developing nations. That’s really good news.

    And yes, it would be nice to have some (quantitative) milestones for 2030 (now missing), but I think the main issue now is to move towards the implementation of these targets. I would leave these for the national plans and an eventual mid-term review by 2026 or so.

    There’s a lot of work for the scientific community ahead. How to support decision-makes in translating targets to national level, how to create enabling conditions for implementation? And of course: monitoring,monitoring, monitoring!.«

    Prof Henrique Pereira

    Head of the Biodiversity Conservation Research Group
    (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

    »Living in harmony with nature needs different values of nature. COP15: please make sociodiversity a key element of Transformative Governance of Biodiversity.

    Biodiversity needs respect for #sociodiversity: as the ipbes values assessment shows good biodiversity governance requires a broad set values of nature including non-monetary and non-western perspectives.

    As my research on Stewardship in the Anthropocene shows, countries like Ecuador, India and New Zealand refer to the rights of nature to encounter the biodiversity crisis.

    My message to CBD COP15 is: please include the findings of the IPBES Values Assessment into your theory of change and the integrative governance approach of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework

    Dr Stefan Knauss
    Post-doctoral researcher
    (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

    »Some invasive plant species pose a threat not only to native species but also to human health. Strategies to curb their spread should be part of a forward-looking health policy.

    COP15 addresses invasive species as a major threat to biodiversity. Several invasive plant species that pose a serious threat to native species, can also be harmful to human health.

    An interdisciplinary team of researchers studied the allergenic potential of Ailanthus altissima, better known as “tree of heaven”, one of the world's most invasive species, spreading across six continents. Originally introduced as an ornamental tree, the allergenic potential is assessed to be very high, and it can be expected that the species will continue to spread rapidly.

    However, little is known about sensitisation in human populations. We provided data on the spread of this tree in the city of Leipzig along with contemporary data on pollen counts, local distribution potential of pollen and proportion of sensitization.

    With 138 pediatric and adult patients, it has been the largest study in that area to date. We document that sensitisation to A. altissima is present in 42% of the patients.

    Therefore, protective measures to prevent the spread of invasive species should also be of particular interest to our own and the next generation’s well-being and health.«

    Dr Susanne Dunker

    Researcher Physiological Diversity Group
    (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and iDiv)

    »We created the new software enerscape that helps predict movement behaviour of wild animals, with benefits for nature conservation rewilding measures.

    COP15 negotiates the “30by30” goal, to place 30% of the total land and sea surface under nature conservation by 2030. The new software enerscape can facilitate identifying new protected areas even with very little information.

    Enerscape provides a cost-effective tool to predict the movement of terrestrial animals virtually everywhere. This can help understand the movement of wild animals, as well as plan landscape corridors and optimise current networks of nature reserves.

    For example, this software has been used to predict the movement of bears in a protected area in Italy:

    My message to the CBD COP15 is: Theoretical approaches such as enerscape should be included in preliminary assessments of landscape planning. They provide simple, yet ecologically meaningful insights that can be used to promote and restore European biodiversity .«

    Dr Emilio Berti
    Post-doctoral researcher
    (iDiv, Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

    »Reversing biodiversity loss in tropical forests urgently requires addressing poorly defined land-tenure as a key driver.

    Land resources are at the core of several CBD post2020 targets as they aim for land planning where ecosystems are prioritized, and 30% of intact landscapes are protected 

    In Brazil, lands that are neither titled nor designated to any use account for almost one hundred million hectares - an area larger than Tanzania.

    My recommendation to CBD COP15: placing lands with poorly defined rights under any other alternative can reduce deforestation by 12-23% in Brazil – meaning regularising land can be an effective opportunity for protecting ecosystems while safeguarding people’s wellbeing .«

    Dr Andrea Pacheco
    Post-doctoral researcher
    (University of Bonn, iDiv alumna)

    »Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals requires understanding the complexity of the natural world. @COP15: Promote and invest in fundamental biodiversity research!

    COP15 will discuss sustainable development goals - a set of interlinked objectives seeking to promote conservation and human development in tandem.

    Many usual approaches are unsuccessful and expensive. But sometimes, hidden in the evolutionary history of species, nature can inspire us to find surprising solutions. Here comes an example:

    Crop-raiding elephants threaten farming and farmers - a conflict which inevitably leads to population declines of an iconic keystone species. We found that elephants can be deterred using simple and affordable chemicals mimicking the smell of lion dung.

    Watch a video about how elephants react

    So, my message to #COP15 @UNBiodiversity is: sustainable development requires understanding the complexity of the natural world. Promote and invest in fundamental biodiversity research.«

    Dr Omer Nevo
    Head of Evolutionary Ecology
    (iDiv, Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

    »The fingerprint of climate change on biodiversity is already visible. We need to act now to protect the services our ecosystems provide!

    #climatechange is an increasingly important driver of #biodiversity change. This aspect will be part of the discussions at COP15. Typical fingerprints of climate change are visible already today: the shift of life-cycle events such as leaf-out dates, first flowering or fruit set.

    These changes have important consequences for us, e.g. in terms of fruit security, considering the impact of late-frost events on fruit tree blossom. In PhenObs we could show that phenological changes cannot only be observed in trees.


    Herbaceous wildflower species respond to variations in temperature in a species-specific way and are linked to their performance: especially taller, large-leaved species are more responsive than smaller, small-leaved species (

    In consequence, we assume that plant communities’ competitive hierarchies will be changed in natural ecosystems with consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem services. We need to act if we want to protect the services our ecosystems provide!«

    Prof Christine Römermann
    Head of Plant Biodiversity Group
    (iDiv, Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

    »Economic studies show: ecosystems save us enormous costs, e.g., in climate protection. Conserving nature is economically prudent.

    COP15 will negotiate a lot of money to be spent on nature conservation. Yet, many economic studies show: ecosystems save us enormous costs.

    For instance, coastal ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, salt marshes and mangrove forests store carbon and, thus, make an important contribution to mitigating climate change.

    But they are also essential to marine ecosystems, important for marine biodiversity and fisheries. These ecosystems contribute to flood and coastal protection and are important for adaptation to climate change.

    So, my message to the CBD COP15 is: Conserving nature is economically prudent. Helping other nations to protect their ecosystems is a good investment in our well-being and that of our children.«

    This statement is relevant, inter alia, for Target 18 of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

    Prof Martin Quaas
    Head of Biodiversity Economics
    (iDiv, Leipzig University)

    »Ecological studies show: nutrient pollution increases the loss of plant species, changes aboveground plant biomass dynamics, and ecosystems’ functioning.

    COP 15 will negotiate how to reduce nutrient input into the environment by half, and how to use ecosystem-based approaches to contribute to mitigation and adaptation to climate change (2030 action target 7).

    If plant species are lost, and biomass dynamics change, this affects the collective activities of all life that depend on plant biomass directly, and indirectly. This limits our ability to use existing ecosystem-based approaches to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

    If we protect those ecosystems now, e.g. by reducing nutrient inputs, we reduce disturbance and avoid costly ecological restoration actions.

    My message to COP 15: we must curb excess nutrients entering the environment. This will help us reduce species loss and maintain existing ecosystem-based resources to contribute to mitigating climate change.«

    Dr Emma Ladouceur
    Post-doctoral researcher
    (iDiv, Leipzig University, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation)

    »COP15 will hopefully set ambitious but also achievable goals towards tracking the status of invasive alien species and their management.

    Action target 6 of the #post2020 GBF suggests managing #invasive alien species (IAS) to reduce their introduction and establishment by at least 50%, and to eliminate or reduce their impacts, focusing on priority species and priority sites.

    In most countries of the world, we lack sufficient knowledge to report on the suggested #post2020 global #biodiversity targets, e.g. regarding the rate of introduction, distribution and impacts of IAS.


    We need appropriate policy and management relevant indicators to depict invasive alien species (IAS) status quo, such as those developed by sTwist.

    My message to COP 15: Mobilise invasive alien species relevant data in all global regions, support freely accessible resources and work towards interoperability of IAS-relevant data. Develop further targeted cross-country management and species introduction-prevention policies.«

    Dr Marten Winter
    Head of sDiv – Synthesis Centre of iDiv

    »Research shows: protecting Malaysian primates and their natural habitat benefits biodiversity but also agricultural yields.

    The CBD’s long-term goal of protecting wildlife can be combined with another goal such as sustainable agriculture. E.g. in oil palm plantations, macaques, considered a pest eating the harvest, actually can diminish a more severe pest: Rats!

    Yet, actively hunting for plantation rats, pig-tailed macaques offer an important ecosystem service for anthropogenic landscape matrices. Regular visits to oil palm plantations by macaques can reduce rat numbers by >75%.

    When offsetting costs and benefits, macaques can contribute to yield increases of up to 7%. As effective seed dispersers, these primates are also known for having a key role in forest regeneration.

    So, my message to the CBD COP15 and its implementation is: Conserving primates and their natural habitat can ultimately lead to a win-win situation for both economy and biodiversity.«

    Prof Anja Widdig
    Head of Behavioral Ecology Research Group
    (Leipzig University, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and iDiv member)

    »Action Target 8 of the expected Global Biodiversity Framework of the CBD aims to minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity, but: biodiversity is not only a victim of climate change but also a cure against it.

    Across many plant and animal species worldwide, the cold-adapted show a retraction of their ranges – likely an early warning of their imminent extinction induced by global warming. Forest damage induced by extreme droughts and heat waves has become a global phenomenon, also in Germany.

    There is mounting evidence that diverse ecosystems cope better with climate change, maintain their productivity or even recover faster after drought spells. In doing so, diversity exerts atmospheric feedback slowing down climate change, e.g. by carbon sequestration or evaporative cooling.

    My message to the UNBiodiversity COP15 is: Protect diverse ecosystems across the world and diversify our land-use systems to keep our ecosystems as resistant as possible so they can continue providing their invaluable services to us.«

    Prof Christian Wirth
    iDiv Speaker
    (iDiv, Leipzig University, Max Planck Fellow)

    »For plants trends in biodiversity change are similar to trends in income and property distribution among people: gains are concentrated on a few species, losses are distributed across many.

    #COP15 will pay particular attention to the implementation of national biodiversity monitoring and observation networks. Here, it is crucial to integrate monitoring data currently collected by universities, NGOs, natural history societies or individual experts for particular species groups.

    For instance, we recently showed for time series of vegetation plot records how these data can be mobilised and analysed together with data owners and analysts. 

    The study shows the temporal trends for German plant species: gains are concentrated on a few while losses are distributed across many.

    Vegetation time series are valuable in many aspects. For example, such data can be used to produce both habitat-specific and species-specific assessments of plant biodiversity status and trends.

    So, my message to the CBD COP15 and its implementation is: "Make sure that biodiversity monitoring is based on high-quality information, which should make use of local knowledge, and integrate these data in official national monitoring programmes.«

    This statement is relevant, inter alia, for Target 20 of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework



    Dr Ute Jandt
    iDiv Member
    (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, iDiv)

    »Avoid repeating old mistakes. In the future, global goals for biodiversity must apply to all member states of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also at national level!

    COP 15 will introduce a new set of goals and targets for biodiversity by 2030. Overall, they should place us on a trajectory to live in harmony with nature by 2050, effectively “bending back the curve” of biodiversity loss.

    The problem: these targets are defined at the global level; how they are translated by each country to the national level is left open. This has been an issue with the previous set of #CBD goals.

    We propose a science-guided process to translate CBD targets to national level with clear actions from stakeholders incl. governments and private sector and measures to reward countries for implementation and #monitoring«.

    Prof Henrique Miguel Pereira
    Head of the Biodiversity Conservation Research Group
    (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

    »Biodiversity is important for health and quality of life. We could show that the density of street trees around the home correlates with a reduced risk of prescribing antidepressants.

    COP15 will set ambitious targets for nature conservation. As many studies show: biodiversity makes happy! Biodiversity is the foundation for our #health and quality of life. For instance, Biodiversity crucially contributes to human health by providing us with medicines, food, as well as climate, air and water regulation. Biodiversity also contributes to our mental health.


    We could show that the density of street trees around the home correlates with a reduced risk of prescribing antidepressants. Planting street trees in cities can be a nature-based solution for depression prevention, climate change adaptation and social issues.

    My message to COP 15: Biodiversity and health are closely linked. Investing in biodiversity in cities and landscapes is investing in proactive natural healthcare for our children and us.

    Prof Aletta Bonn
    Head of Ecosystem Services
    (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, iDiv, Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

    »The species found in local assemblages are changing. Understanding where, how and why is vital for effective conservation.

    While numbers of species are on average remaining relatively constant, the species found in local assemblages are undergoing widespread changes. These changes in composition can impact ecosystem services significantly. 

    COP 15 will negotiate multiple measures to preserve and protect nature and its essential services to people. To effectively protect biodiversity, we need to understand where, how and why compositional changes are occurring.

    My message to COP 15: monitoring is a key component of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Only accurate, transparent accounting of scale-dependent variation in biodiversity can yield the insights required to preserve & protect #nature and its essential services to people.«

    Dr Shane Blowes
    Post-doctoral Researcher of Biodiversity Synthesis Research Group
    (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

    »COP15 will set new global ambition for biodiversity. But ambition is nothing without action. Everyone has to contribute.

    Here’s how it could work:  We need action not only from conservationists but also from bankers, business owners, farmers, indigenous people, NGOs, etc. 

    To get them on board, we need to identify which issues are closest to their hearts and where they can make the biggest change.

    Biodiversity science has made huge progress in the past decade. We now better understand how biodiversity is created and maintained and what threatens it.

    This knowledge about biodiversity helps us find ways to protect it.

    New insights should lead to new solutions. 

    The success of measures to safeguard biodiversity needs to be monitored and reported regularly. This will help us adapt our actions and be more successful.

    My message to COP 15: Don’t stop at the goals and targets!

    Make sure that we find effective ways to implement them, too! Biodiversity science stands ready to support!«

    Dr Andrea Perino
    Science-Policy Coordinator at iDiv

    »Biodiversity restoration must become central to COP15 targets. Yet, a coherent portfolio of restoration approaches will be needed. Research shows: rewilding, ecosystem services and cultural values can all coexist, with support of participatory scenarios.

    CBD will negotiate global restoration targets including large-scale recovery of ecosystem integrity. Discussions include how to restore functional ecosystems while sustaining people’s well-being.

    Restoration must include actions beyond protected areas e.g., in forests, agroecosystems and urban environments. There is ample space, but policy should adjust approaches to the different social-ecological opportunities.


    Participatory scenarios provide an instrument to explore restoration needs & targets tailored to particular landscapes and social settings. They can be used with ecological data to project how nature will look like in the future.
    This way, policy makers can assess a portfolio of nature recovery options and trade-offs. For example, by considering the effects of #rewilding on ecosystem resilience and connectivity, two important functions to sustain biodiversity.«

    Dr Néstor Fernández
    Scientific researcher, Biodiversity Conservation (iDiv, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)

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