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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • uncertainty;
  • integration;
  • policy implications;
  • scenarios;
  • storylines

ABSTRACT

Aim  This paper describes a set of integrative scenarios developed in the ALARM (Assessing LArge-scale environmental Risks for biodiversity with tested Methods) project. The ultimate aim of ALARM was to develop and test methods and protocols for the assessment of large-scale environmental risks to biodiversity and to evaluate mitigation options. Scenarios provide a tool for exploring such risks and the policy options to mitigate them; therefore they play a central role within the ALARM project.

Methods  Three integrative scenarios (liberalization, business as might be usual, sustainability) were developed and illustrated using the econometric model described in a subsequent paper. They are contextualized with projections from climate models and provide the input for model-based assessments of biodiversity trends. Additionally, three shock scenarios were developed (Gulf Stream collapse, peak oil, pandemic) to demonstrate the limits of linear extrapolation. As these extend beyond model capabilities, they are discussed semi-quantitatively based on modelling insights.

Results  Although the policy impacts on biodiversity are different for different pressures, biomes and species groups, some general trends could be identified. An extension of current EU policies will act as a brake on current trends by slowing down the loss of biodiversity in many cases and in most biomes, but it will be capable of neither halting nor of reversing the loss. Liberalization has the effect of accelerating biodiversity loss across the board, with few exceptions. A coherent sustainability scenario is clearly the most effective at preserving biodiversity, but the variant tested here still does not halt losses in all cases.

Main conclusions  Current EU policies for protecting biodiversity appear to be insufficient to reverse ongoing losses. Coherent sustainability strategies are effective at conserving biodiversity, but in order to assess losses and then reverse them, measures would need to be introduced that extend beyond the steps tested in the ALARM sustainability scenario.