Leopoldina news 3_2021 | Page 4

4 3 / 2021 // LEOPOLDINA / NEWS

“ Climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked ”

Leopoldina members Katrin Böhning-Gaese and Joachim von Braun on the Annual Assembly
The central theme of this year ’ s Leopoldina Annual Assembly is biodiversity . The presentations will cover relevant topics including the conservation of biodiversity and the role of human activity in nature .
Image : Karoline Thalhofer | Adobe Stock
The theme of the Leopoldina Annual Assembly on 24 and 25 September will be “ Biodiversity and the Future of Variety ”. Biologist Katrin Böhning-Gaese ML and agricultural economist Joachim von Braun ML are two of the speakers lined up to talk about this topic . In this interview , they outline the current situation and explain why we need to take action .
Ms Böhning-Gaese , your presentation is on biodiversity in the Anthropocene . Has the natural world ever been in such a precarious position as it is today ? Katrin Böhning-Gaese : Biodiversity is facing a bigger threat now than it has at any other point in human history . In fact , the situation has only been this serious a few times in the entire history of the Earth . According to a report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services ( IPBES ), one million species out of an estimated eight million on this pla- net are endangered . The extinction rate has shot up dramatically . To be precise , Earth ’ s sixth major mass extinction event is already underway . Considering that the last time this happened on the same scale was the demise of the dinosaurs , we need to take serious action to tackle this problem as a matter of urgency .
Mr von Braun , the world population will be hitting nine or ten billion before we know it . Can we feed that many people without exploiting nature ? Joachim von Braun : As it stands , not everyone has access to a healthy diet . If we are to be able to feed the world population and preserve biodiversity , we need a productive and sustainable food system that does not rely upon natural landscapes as heavily as our current system does . An important measure here would be to do away with large-scale monocultures , something agricultural research and perhaps even innovative field robotics could underpin .
To what extent is agriculture causing the decline in species ? Böhning-Gaese : The main factor causing this decline is changes in land use . This is followed by the exploitation of species and then climate change . Changes in land use are often brought about by agriculture , such as when forests are cut down to make more space for farming and when farming efforts are ramped up . Species being exploited is also linked to food production – take for example fishing activities .
So would you say that the agricultural system needs to be changed as a priority ? Böhning-Gaese : Here in Germany , we are seeing agriculture have a particularly serious impact on species survival rates . We argued in favour of transformational change across the entire society when it comes to agricultural ecosystems in the academy statement on the biodiversity