Monday October 21, 2019

Human Activity Threatens Extinction of 1 Million Flora, Fauna Species: Study

Scientists called for avoiding the worst effects by altering the way food and energy is produced, and better addressing waste

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biodiversity
Officials at Paris gathering of scientists on Monday unveiled comprehensive, 1,800-page biodiversity report with warnings of unprecedented widespread extinction of various world's species. VOA

Nico Pinault in Paris contributed to this report.

A United Nations report says 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, because of human activity.

The report issued Monday draws on the work of 450 researchers from dozens of countries and warns the threatened mass extinction is “something that has never happened before in human history. … Nature is globally declining at an unprecedented rate.”

Scientists said species are going extinct up to several hundred times faster than the average rate during the past 10 million years. There are currently 8 million animal and plant species on Earth.

extinction, human activity
FILE – A man rests his hand on a dead reef as he snorkels in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay near Honolulu, May 6, 2016. VOA

The 1,800-page report, which was released at the 7th session of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in Paris, said fixing the problem will require transformative changes.

Robert Watson, who chaired the 132-nation meeting, said, “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality-of-life worldwide. We really need to get governments to think beyond GDP.”

Compiled over three years and based on 15,000 scientific papers, the report identified several main causes for the reduction in biodiversity, including turning forests into farms and developments, overfishing, and land and water pollution. The report also found that climate change is exacerbating the losses.

Some parts of the world, including coral reefs and the polar regions, feel the burden of lost biodiversity more than others, according to the report.

extinction, human activity
Scientists called for avoiding the worst effects by altering the way food and energy is produced, and better addressing waste. Pixabay

Scientists called for avoiding the worst effects by altering the way food and energy is produced, and better addressing waste.

Professor Eduardo Brondizio, an anthropologist at Indiana University Bloomington and the co-chairman of the assessment report produced in Paris, said the growth of cities in many poor countries is happening without needed government planning and oversight.

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“Much of that urban extension happens without the ability for local governments to provide the services needed. You have a situation where low income, poverty are side by side with the lack of infrastructures, lack of sewage, etc.”

Brondizio said countries by and large know what needs to be done to protect biodiversity, but said there needs to be a greater will to take action. “The knowledge is there. We need to move to more bold implementation,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Research: Having Diverse Natural Areas Near Agriculture Helps Farmers Financially During Calamities

"New global and local policy should specifically target conserving and enhancing biodiversity"

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University of British Columbia ecologist Diane Srivastava, with a damselfly, an insect often used as an indicator species for estimating biodiversity and assessing ecosystem health. (T. Zulkoskey). VOA

Farmers reap surprising benefits from having areas that are biodiverse  with many plant and animal species nearby, according to new research. A study finds that having diverse natural areas near agriculture helps farmers financially during droughts, and the more diverse the areas are, the better. Policies that preserve biodiversity near farms may ease economic pressure in places with severe droughts, the authors say.

“If you plant the same sort of crops next to a natural area that is very high in biodiversity versus one that’s very low in biodiversity, [the positive effect] spills over into the agricultural products,” said Frederik Noack, a professor of food and resource economics at the University of British Columbia who led the study.

Some of that spillover can be tied to the increased diversity of insects in places that host many different species of plants, experts say. Pollinators that help plants reproduce, like bees and moths, and spiders that prey on agricultural pests like aphids and beetles are especially important.

Noack hoped to learn if having biodiverse areas close to farms could help crops be more resistant to drought  and if that impact would be big enough to be seen in farmers’ incomes.

farmers, diversity, agriculture
Farmers reap surprising benefits from having areas that are biodiverse with many plant and animal species nearby, according to new research. Wikimedia Commons

Big data from small farms

The researchers used data from 7,556 households in 304 villages in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where farmers derive their incomes from traditional agriculture as well as forest products like lumber and firewood.

Noack and his research team looked for a connection between the level of natural biodiversity  in this case, the number of plant species in the area  and how strongly drought affected the incomes of local farmers.

The researchers had expected that greater local biodiversity would benefit farmers, and it did. Farmers in areas with half the biodiversity lost twice as much income when droughts hit during the growing season.

Noack said that initially they thought the effect was just correlated with crop diversity. “Maybe you plant more different crops in areas with higher natural biodiversity because maybe there are just more crops available in those areas and that’s actually what’s driving the effect.”

But that’s not what they found. Even when they accounted for the effect of greater crop diversity, the farmers’ incomes seemed to be stabilized just by being close to diverse natural areas that can host many types of pollinators.

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“If you plant the same sort of crops next to a natural area that is very high in biodiversity versus one that’s very low in biodiversity, [the positive effect] spills over into the agricultural products,” said Frederik Noack. Pixabay
Having access to forests was also an income stabilizer. Because forests are the result of many years of growth rather than just a single season, income from forest products is less susceptible to drought and can offset agricultural losses, the researchers found.

ALSO READ: Government to Launch Solar Scheme for Farmers to Ensure Rs. 1 Lakh Income

Encouraging conservation

Bruno Basso, an ecosystems scientist at Michigan State University who was not involved in the research, commented in an email that the researchers had been able to show that “biodiversity and forest conservation play a critical role in adapting and mitigating the negative effects of increased climate variability.” Noack hopes that this study can become part of the larger debate about conservation of natural areas.

“Should we just have protected area far away in areas that we don’t use or shall we try to integrate that into normal land use?” said Noack. “This study actually says maybe we should at least have some level of biodiversity conservation in the agricultural landscape because of this positive spillover.” Basso agreed. “New global and local policy should specifically target conserving and enhancing biodiversity,” he said. (VOA)