A major effort to size up and preserve biodiversity is under threat, like so many of the species it surveys. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) had an auspicious start in 2012, signing up 126 member nations and publishing its first assessment, a 556-page tome on pollinators and food production, to much fanfare a year ago. But governmental donations to the effort, which is overseen by the United Nations, have not kept pace with its ambitious 7-year agenda.
“The honeymoon is over,” says Carsten Rahbek, director of the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, who is not involved in the effort. “There’s a huge challenge here.” To make ends meet, IPBES approved contentious budget cuts at its annual meeting in Bonn, Germany, earlier this month, including a cut of almost one-third for 2018. It also postponed three major reports, sparking acrimony among its members.
The United Nations created IPBES with the hope that it would mirror the success of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 3-decade-old body that has issued influential reports. The remit of IPBES is broader. In addition to documenting biodiversity trends, it also identifies practical policy tools for protecting species and helps build the capacity of governments and others to use those tools. IPBES has recruited more than 1300 experts to assist with its work, including two assessments released last year—the pollinators report and another on methods used to build biodiversity models. It is now working on one global and four regional assessments of biodiversity, plus a look at land degradation.