As many as 1 million species are at risk of going extinct in coming decades.
Biodiversity around the planet is on the verge of collapse and as many as 1 million species are at risk of going extinct in coming decades.
This stark, even apocalyptic, assessment comes from an international team of some 150 experts who have just released a comprehensive United Nations-sponsored report on the dire prospects facing hundreds of thousands of species unless we change course and fast.
Countless mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and a wide variety of flora are all facing existential threats owing manmade factors such as habitat loss and climate change, warns the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which has published the report.
The experts are warning of a planetary “emergency” because of a clear and present danger to life on Earth as we know it. “There is now overwhelming evidence that we are losing the planet’s species at an alarming speed,” stresses Prof. Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom.
And that speed may even accelerate. “There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human wellbeing both for current and future generations,” says Robert Watson, the UN agency’s chair. “We are in trouble if we don’t act, but there are a range of actions that can be taken to protect nature and meet human goals for health and development.
The current rate of biodiversity decline also means that people worldwide will experience “grave impacts” on their lives and livelihoods. Climate change is set to make matters worse still. For instance, coral reefs that are both marine biodiversity hotspots and provide livelihoods for millions of people could well be decimated with rising global temperatures.
“Let’s be quite candid: We’re not on the pathway to 2 degrees Celsius. We’re on a pathway to 3 [or] 3.5 degrees Celsius. The coral system is truly in trouble,” says Robert Watson, a British chemist who was chairman of the IPBES panel,
Biologists and conservationists have long been warning of a so-called Anthropocene Extinction whereby humans are about to drive most species extinct on Planet Earth through a variety of environmentally destructive activities.
In a recent study, for instance, a team of scientists found that terrestrial vertebrates were dying out across the world at “extremely high [rates] — even in ‘species of low concern.'” Of 177 mammals surveyed, they write, “all have lost 30% or more of their geographic ranges and more than 40% of the species have experienced severe population declines (>80% range shrinkage).”
The UN-backed team of experts recommend a range of actions that could slow down or even reverse species extinction rates across the planet. They include the adoption of less intrusive agricultural practices, stepped-up conservation efforts and forward-thinking polices from governments, especially in countries with biodiversity hotspots.