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.