UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity
Local, indigenous and scientific knowledge
Mobilizing existing natural and social science, new technologies, and indigenous and local knowledge can inform us about the drivers of biodiversity loss and effective approaches to recovery, resilience and behavioural change. However, despite the availability of sufficient knowledge to halt biodiversity erosion, there are still gaps in knowledge and data regarding the trends and drivers for many ecosystems and species. Efforts to gather accurate data to develop scenarios and models are hindered by many obstacles, especially capacity gaps. These include unequal national science capacity, lack of availability of skilled experts and funding, gender bias, lack of interdisciplinary collaboration, lack of understanding of which information to collect to facilitate appropriate decision-making, and weaknesses in data sharing between institutions and countries.
- Interdisciplinary research and data sharing is needed to enhance understanding of biodiversity decline, and to identify policy responses that take into account science, sociology, economic paradigms and cultural norms.
- Monitoring data are generally missing for most marine habitats and species. In addition, there is a lack of understanding of how biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, especially in marine systems.
- Science capacity is not equally developed around the globe. This significantly impacts the ability of decision-makers to obtain accurate data and guidance on biodiversity risks and opportunities.
- A best available knowledge approach can help compensate for knowledge gaps by drawing on complementary knowledge systems, including citizen science, new technology tools, and the mobilization of indigenous and local knowledge.
UNESCO's role in addressing knowledge gaps
IOC and ocean biodiversity
The world’s oceans remain one of the least under-stood and most important ecosystems on earth. In 1961, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO created the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme ‘to enhance marine research, exploitation and development, by facilitating the exchange of oceanographic data and information. IODE draws on biodiversity data from the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). With over 50 million species observations provided by over 600 institutions worldwide, OBIS has become the world’s most comprehensive database on the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the ocean, and supports various international processessuch as the identification of ecologically or biologically significant marine areas under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Working with indigenous and local knowledge
Indigenous and local peoples are often well positioned to observe and understand local ecosystems. Accordingly, indigenous, traditional and local knowledge systems constitute one of the largest bodies of human knowledge about biodiversity and ecosystems. However, these knowledge systems are rarely recognized as resources for understanding, monitoring and managing biodiversity. The Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme works to enhance the recognition and use of indigenous knowledge within biodiversity assessments. This includes work on a series of reports on indigenous and local knowledge which are designed to address knowledge gaps in the IPBES regional assessments and pollinators assessment.
Participatory science: Sandwatch
For over 18 years, UNESCO’s Small Islands and Indigenous Knowledge Section has worked with national governments, non-governmental organizations, schools and regional offices to establish the Sandwatch coastal monitoring system in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other coastal countries. Given that many countries have a limit-ed number of scientific researchers or constrained scientific capacity, Sandwatch is instrumental in bridging these gaps by promoting additional and complementary knowledge systems, including citizen observation, data capture, participatory use of GIS and citizen science instruments.
World Heritage State of Conservation Information System (SOC)
The World Heritage State of Conservation Information System (SOC) is one of the most compre-hensive monitoring data systems of any interna-tional convention. Since 1979, the Convention’s Reactive monitoring process has produced 3,627 conservation reports on 566 World Heritage properties in 144 States Parties. This online tool enables the assessment of the state of conser-vation of World Heritage and the conducting of comprehensive analyses of threats to identify potential trends over time.