After two years of debate, more than 90 countries have voted to create a scientific panel on biodiversity following a five-day UN meeting in Busan, South Korea.
Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general who oversaw the talks, said the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was "the dream of many scientists" now made reality.
The establishment of the panel is aimed at addressing growing concern about the human impact on habitats and species around the world.
Steiner, who is also head of the UN Environment Programme (Unep), said "[The IPBES] represents a major breakthrough in terms of organising a global response to the loss of living organisms and forests, freshwaters, coral reefs and other ecosystems."
The panel will peer-review science research on biodiversity and ecosystems to ensure that governments are receiving the best information and advice, and are able to act more decisively to reverse various trends in the natural world.
'Timely and vital'
The creation of such a body has, according to many experts, become vital.
The current rate of species extinction as a result of human activity is more than 100 times faster than the rate of natural extinction, according to the UN.
More than 16,000 species are threatened with extinction, almost wholly as a result of human action, including habitat destruction, global warming, over-exploitation and pollution.
"We must be fully aware that the disappearance of biodiversity plays a decisive role in development," said Chantal Jouanno, the French secretary of state for ecology.
"The stakes for the future of humanity" are high, she said.
The panel will also focus on poverty alleviation, human well-being and sustainable development.
The UN general assembly will have to approve the decision to set up the panel at a meeting in September.
It will then be put to environment ministers for endorsement at Unep's world ministerial meeting in February next year.