Earth is enduring a mass species extinction, scientists say---the first since the demise of the dinosaurs and only the sixth in half-a-billion years.
The reason? Humanity's voracious consumption, and wanton destruction, of the very gifts of nature that keep us alive.
Starting Saturday, a comprehensive, global appraisal of the damage, and what can be done to reverse it, will be conducted in Colombia.
"The science is clear: biodiversity is in crisis globally," WWF director general Marco Lambertini told AFP ahead of a crucial meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
"We depend on biodiversity for the food we eat, the water we drink, the clean air we breathe, the stability of weather patterns, and yet our actions are pushing nature's ability to sustain us to the brink."
Scientists and government envoys will gather as the 128-member IPBES to dot the i's and cross the t's on five monumental assessment reports designed to inform global policymaking into the future.
Compiled over the last three years, the reports will provide the most up-to-date picture of the health of the world's plants, animals and soil.
The diagnosis will be unveiled in two parts at the summit in Colombia's second-largest city, Medellin.
First, on March 23, the IPBES will simultaneously release separate assessments for the four regions into which it has divided the world -- the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Europe and Central Asia.
A fifth report, due March 26, will focus on the global state of soil, which is fast being degraded through pollution, forest-destruction, mining, and unsustainable farming methods that deplete its nutrients.
Altogether, the evaluations took 600 volunteer scientists three years to complete, synthesising data extracted from about 10,000 scientific publications.
The end product covers the entire Earth apart from Antarctica and the open oceans -- those waters beyond national jurisdiction.
Meeting host Colombia claims to boast the world's largest variety of birds and orchids and is second only to Brazil in terms of overall species diversity.
Paradoxically, decades of conflict have preserved fragile habitats in no-go zones in the country, whose mountainous topography supports 311 different ecosystems.
But 1,200 Colombian species are listed as threatened, due partly to pollution and forest-destruction caused by illicit drug production.
More than just a portrayal of doom and gloom, the latest assessments will include projections for future recovery or decline, and "suggestions for action," IPBES executive secretary Anne Larigauderie told AFP. AFP