Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

  • C. M. FinlaysonEmail author
Living reference work entry


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in 2012, as an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations. It has been developed as the leading intergovernmental body for assessing the state of biodiversity, including its ecosystems and the ecosystem services that provide benefits to people. The structure and purpose of IPBES are described and the work program introduced, including the conceptual framework that has been developed.


Ecosystem services Biodiversity Intergovernmental agreement 


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in April 2012, as an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations. It is intended to develop IPBES as the leading intergovernmental body for assessing the state of biodiversity, including its ecosystems and the ecosystem services that provide benefits to people (Diaz et al. 2015a, b). Information on the platform and its development is available from accessed 30 August 2016.

Following the completion of the biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (, there were a number of discussions about developing an ongoing mechanism for assessing the condition of global biodiversity and ecosystem services (Carpenter et al. 2009). This developed further with a consultation process to assess the need and scope of a possible International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) (Loreau et al. 2006; Hoareau and Arico 2010). Following the final meeting of the steering committee for IMoSEB in November 2007, the Executive Director of UNEP was invited, in collaboration with governments and other partners, to convene an intergovernmental and multistakeholder meeting to consider the establishment of an intergovernmental mechanism for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

This led to three intergovernmental and multistakeholders meetings (Malaysia 2008, Kenya 2009, Republic of Korea 2010) to discuss ways to strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. These meetings identified the gaps and needs for strengthening the science-policy interface and agreed that an IPBES should be established. The last was part of what became known as the Busan Outcome , and was welcomed by the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in October 2010 and subsequently considered at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This UN Assembly passed a resolution requesting UNEP to convene a plenary meeting to fully operationalize IPBES. The plenary was held in two sessions, the first hosted by UNEP in Nairobi in October 2011 and the second hosted by UNEP in collaboration with UNESCO, FAO, and UNDP, in Panama City in April 2012. The final outcome was that 94 governments adopted a resolution establishing the platform as an independent intergovernmental body.

The Platform

It is intended that IPBES will provide a mechanism for conducting reviews, assessments, and critical evaluations of information and knowledge from multiple sources, including from academic, research organizations, nongovernmental organizations, or community or indigenous organizations. A key component of the processes will be recognition of the role of both the wider scientific and policy communities globally based on establishing credible and transparent processes. In particular, it will endeavor to respond to the needs of Multilateral Environmental Agreements that are related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including those dealing with wetlands, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

IPBES-1, the first meeting of the Platform’s Plenary, was held in Germany in January 2013. The outcomes included decisions on the following: rules of procedure for the Plenary of the Platform, next steps for the development of the initial IPBES work program, procedure for receiving and prioritizing requests put to the platform, IPBES administrative and institutional arrangements, and status of contribution and initial budget for the platform for 2013.

Arrangements were made for intersessional activities and the establishment of a Multidisciplinary Expert Panel to oversee the development of the initial work program. The Multidisciplinary Expert Panel is required to develop its own working methods with the support of the secretariat and to retain its independence and focus on scientific and technical issues. Vohland et al. (2011) emphasized the necessity for IPBES to be seen as credible and effective with challenges including setting the agenda for technical assessments, organizing the assessment process, and making the findings more policy relevant.

IPBES-2, the second meeting of the Platform’s Plenary, was held in Turkey in December 2013. The outcomes included decisions on the following: the work program for 2014–2018, including the related scoping documents, institutional arrangements for implementing the work program, communication and stakeholder engagement, guidance on strategic partnerships, consideration of the budget for the implementation of the work program, and a conceptual framework. The meeting adopted a very ambitious initial work program for the platform for the next 5 years and demonstrated a strong commitment to its implementation by pledging more than half (US$ 25.4 million) of the total US$ 43.5 million required, in what will be remembered as the “Antalya consensus.”

IPBES currently has 125 government members and is administered by UNEP under the auspices of UNEP, FAO, UNDP and UNESCO. The IPBES secretariat is hosted by the German government on the UN campus, in Bonn, Germany. The decision making body of IPBES is the IPBES Plenary that comprises government members and observers, with two subsidiary bodies, the Bureau which is responsible for administrative activities, and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel that is responsible for the technical and scientific work program. The work program consists of objectives, deliverables, actions, and milestones for the four core functions of Capacity Building, Knowledge Generation Catalysis, Assessment, and policy support. Scientists from around the world contribute on a voluntary basis to the work of IPBES. Peer review is used to ensure high scientific standards are achieved in the work program and that a range of views is incorporated. IPBES has also made a concerted effort to attract social researchers, including from sociology, economics, geography, political science and others, to join the IPBES program to complement the work undertaken by experts from the natural sciences (Larigauderie et al. 2015).

Diaz et al. (2015a, b) report on the development of a conceptual framework that designed to bring the IPBES effort together to ensure integration of the knowledge and biodiversity interface for biodiversity, and to accommodate diverse views on biodiversity while stimulating new thinking and approaches. The framework built on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and further emphasized the role of institutions as sources of environmental problems and solutions. It also extended the valuation of the contribution of nature to the quality of human life to include monetary to spiritual values. It also explicitly incorporated multiple knowledge systems. The conceptual framework is shown in
Fig. 1

IPBES conceptual framework (from IPBES

Fig. 1.

The IPBES workplan was implemented from 2014 with a set of assessments and capacity building activities (Gilbert 2014). The initial assessments considered pollination and pollinators associated with food production (IPBES 2016a), and scenarios analysis and modeling of biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES 2016b). Others are planned.



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Land, Water & SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Water Education, UNESCO-IHEDelftThe Netherlands

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