Biodiversity: Out of Sight, Out of Mind!

Animal and plant species are declining so quickly that world biodiversity loss is no longer within a “safe limit” and could start to threaten much of the planet’s ability to support humans. Habitat loss, climate change and invasive species are threatening mass extinctions. Read on to discover why it is vital that your organization begins understanding its contribution to biodiversity loss.

Athena’s forecast
Start year: 2015
Likely Tipping point: 2025
Likely End year: 2050
Likely Impact $: Billions
Likelihood: 75%
Regions affected: The World
Most affected sectors: Energy, Environment, Food & Agriculture, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Tourism, Construction, Government

What is changing?


  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services face threats that are increasing in number and severity.
  • Invasive species are a serious threat to biodiversity worldwide and predicting whether an introduced species will first establish and become invasive can be useful to preserve ecosystem services.
  • Agriculture and the overexploitation of plants and animal species are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change.
  • The loss of biodiversity will reduce the resilience of ecosystems in the face of environmental changes such as global warming.
  • Large-scale CO 2 removal will have knock-on effects for ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • The monoculture plantations that would probably be planted as quick growing energy feedstocks have a low biodiversity value and are more vulnerable because they are at more risk of being attacked by pests.
  • The immediate urgency of protecting biodiverse ecosystems from imminent threats appears to be on a different time horizon than the long-term strategy of engaging new, diverse constituencies for conservation efforts.
  • The specific mix of biomass sources used to meet demand could play a significant role in shaping ecosystems.


  • Harvesting of firewood and production of charcoal are a huge and growing threatto indigenous forests and biodiversity.
  • With demand for palm oil expected to double by 2020 there will be increasing pressure on tropical forests and biodiversity.
  • Policies that continue to promote growing for the use of palm and other oils in biofuel will thus likely exceed the capacity of the industry to expand sustainably.
  • Increasing the production of biofuels reduces the land area available to grow food and threatens forests and biodiversity.
  • GMO soya and chemical-intensive palm oil plantations are the primary driving forces of the tropical deforestation that threatens to smother the literal lungs of the planet.
  • Use of locally adapted feed resources is expected to conserve biodiversity.
  • An increased demand for bioenergy could affect the existing uses of wood material, byproducts, co-products, and waste wood, altering the current balance between material and energy uses.


  • By 2020 the world will have lost two-thirds of its vertebrate biodiversity.
  • The illegal trade in wildlife is a huge threat to biodiversity.
  • Biohackers will help to save species of wild and domestic animals as an expanding global human population puts pressure on biodiversity through habitat destruction.

Climate change

  • Climate change and biodiversity loss could be considered “context risks” whose most significant effects are to modulate the dangers posed by virtually every other existential risk facing humanity.
  • Existing biodiversity will be essential for the successful adaptation of ecosystems to climate change.
  • Climate change will see changes to the geographic distribution of many species.

Marine life

  • Ocean acidification represents a serious threat to marine biodiversity.
  • Progressive ocean acidification will also increasingly slow the growth of corals and shell-forming reef organism.
  • The average global ocean temperature is expected to rise by between one and four degrees Celsius by 2100.
  • An increase in seawater temperature will affect the reproduction period of fish and shrimp and may result in large-scale migration of fish



  • Business risks associated with biodiversity loss include disruption of operations, reputational risks and financing risks.
  • Environmental impacts such as growing resource scarcity, biodiversity loss, and degradation of ecosystems provide new opportunities and risks to investors.
  • Some of the world’s most fertile fishing grounds could disappear, global grain production could shrink and biodiversity could suffer as a result of climate change.
  • Other threats to the biodiversity of Europe’s waters are coastal development, energy production and mining.
  • By 2030, consumers and customers will expect that companies do business in more responsible, sustainable ways due to major shifts in the condition of the planet (e.g. global warming, land loss due to rising seas, decreasing biodiversity) and resource constraints due to a growing global population.
  • Many consumers and customers will expect companies to innovate to zero (e.g. zero emissions, zero waste) to reduce the negative impact of their products, services, or practices.


  • The number of acutely vulnerable countries will worsen by 2030 as climate change related pressures such as droughts, floods, biodiversity loss and disease mount.
  • Increasing crop yields could help meet the rising global demand for more food while sparing land to protect biodiversity.
  • Incremental changes in temperature, rainfall patterns and ocean acidification are also likely to shift the global pattern of food production posing risks to the price of food.
  • The rate of biological invasions into Europe will increase in the coming years.
  • Restoring water cycles, soil, grasslands, wetlands and forests could remove gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere.


  • Wider use of synthetic biology could generate shockwaves in the global economy.
  • Even more, climate change and biodiversity loss could significantly fuel ecoterrorism.
  • Loss of the world’s rainforests could result in a loss of finding more potential lifesaving medicines.
  • Pollinator extinction poses a huge threat to food security.

How should land, water and biodiversity be used to meet the demands of the planet’s inhabitants in 2050?
What are the potential impacts of synthetic biology on biodiversity?
In the face of rapidly increasing concerns regarding climate change, biodiversity loss and ocean acidification, where are policy makers currently focusing their attention towards more effective governance?

Sentiment Analysis

Learn more

Find more sources and forecasts on Shaping Tomorrow, some of which were used in this Trend Alert, or ask us for our ready-made and free, in-depth PowerPoint report or more detailed GIST briefing on this or any other topic of interest to you.

Also, click here to find out how Shaping Tomorrow can help your organization rapidly assess and respond to these and other key issues affecting your business.

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About this Alert: robot generated from verbatim forecasts and questions auto-extracted from the Shaping Tomorrow database of articles, reports and PowerPoints and supplemented with quantitative and graphical analysis by the robot. Time to compile and produce – 45 minutes.


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