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Developing Countries at Greatest Risk as Biodiversity Loss Threatens 50% of World GDP

Biodiversity loss is now one of the top five risks to the global economy, with more than 50% of worldwide GDP significantly dependent upon natural ecosystems that are being rapidly destroyed by climate change, deforestation, and disease, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that stresses the threat to developing countries.

The report “calls for ‘a radical reset of humanity’s relationship with nature,’” writes SciDevNet. Titled Nature Risk Rising and presented at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland last month, it finds that “some of the fastest-growing economies in the world are particularly exposed to nature loss.” Among the most at risk is Africa, with 23% of its GDP coming from agriculture and construction, industries that rely on “healthy soils, clean water, pollination, and a stable climate.”  

India and Indonesia are even more beholden to nature for their economic well-being, with 33% of their GDP accrued from these sectors. Latin America faces the greatest economic threat from declining biodiversity, depending on healthy and diverse ecosystems for 55% of its GDP.

A painful irony is that while Latin American agriculture is under threat from nature loss, it, alongside mining, is also a massive driver. “Models suggest that if 20 to 25% of the Amazon forest is lost, this would lead to increased duration of droughts in the region and annual agricultural production losses of US$422 million in Brazil alone,” Akanksha Khatri, head of WEF’s nature and biodiversity initiative, told SciDevNet. 

And more clouds are gathering around the economic outlook for the region. Citing the WEF report, SciDev.net notes that “60% of coffee varieties are in danger of extinction due to climate change, disease, and deforestation. If these varieties became extinct, the global coffee market—with retail sales of $83 billion in 2017—would be ‘significantly destabilized, affecting the livelihoods of many smallholder farmers.’”