Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Rate of species decline 'no longer within safe limit' for humans, experts warn

'Until and unless we can bring biodiversity back up, we’re playing ecological roulette'

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent 
Thursday 14 July 2016

Animal and plant species are declining so quickly that world biodiversity loss is no longer within a “safe limit” and could start to threaten much of the planet’s ability to support humans, according to a major new study.

Experts analysed nearly 2.4 million records about more than 39,000 species at 18,600 different places around the world.

They discovered that for 58.1 per cent of the world’s land surface the loss of biodiversity was serious enough to call into question its ability to sustain the 5.3 billion people who live there.
The research, published in the prestigious journal Science, comes as scientists are considering redefining the current geological epoch as the Anthropocene – because of humanity’s dramatic effects on the Earth, including what many fear will be the planet’s sixth mass extinction of life.

One of the researchers, Dr Tim Newbold, of University College London, said: “This is the first time we’ve quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail and we’ve found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists.

“We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function, but how it does this is not entirely clear. What we do know is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.”

The “safe limit” was set at a 10 per cent reduction in species’ abundance, compared to the original number before humans took over the land. However, this definition is controversial as some researchers believe a reduction of 70 per cent would still be safe.

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