We can no longer see the continued loss of biodiversity as an issue separate from the core concerns of society: to tackle poverty, to improve the health, prosperity and security of present and future generations, and to deal with climate change. Each of those objectives is undermined by current trends in the state of our ecosystems, and each will be greatly strengthened if we finally give biodiversity the priority it deserves.
The Majesty of Life
When we say we want to save the planet, we use the word "biodiversity" to encompass this entire concept - which, granted, is a big one. Biodiversity: Life, the world, the variation of life for the entire globe.
It’s a big idea with a long history.
Biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological species, the product of four billion years of evolution.
But the word “Biodiversity” itself is actually quite new. "Biodiversity" was coined as a contraction of "biological diversity" in 1985.
And as politicians, scientists, and conservationists became more interested in the state of the planet and the amazing complexity of life we became quite attached to this new word.
And why were we talking so much about Biodiversity?
The world has begun, relatively recently, to lose species and habitats at an ever-increasing and alarming rate.
BECAUSE OF US.
How many species are we losing?
Well... this is the million dollar question.
And one that’s very hard to answer.
Firstly, we don’t know exactly what’s out there.
It’s a big complex world and we discover new species to science all the time.
"Scientists were startled in 1980 by the discovery of a tremendous diversity of insects in tropical forests. In one study of just 19 trees in Panama, 80% of the 1,200 beetle species discovered were previously unknown to science... Surprisingly, scientists have a better understanding of how many stars there are in the galaxy than how many species there are on Earth."
So, if we don’t know how much there is to begin with, we don’t know exactly how much we’re losing.
But we do have lots of facts and figures that seem to indicate that the news isn’t good.
Just to illustrate the degree of biodiversity loss we're facing, let’s take you through one scientific analysis...
The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.* •
These experts calculate that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year. •
If the low estimate of the number of species out there is true - i.e. that there are around 2 million different species on our planet** - then that means between 200 and 2,000 extinctions occur every year. •
But if the upper estimate of species numbers is true - that there are 100 million different species co-existing with us on our planet - then between 10,000 and 100,000 species are becoming extinct each year.
Unlike the mass extinction events of geological history, the current extinction challenge is one for which a single species - ours - appears to be almost wholly responsible. This is often referred to as the 6th extinction crisis, after the 5 known extinction waves in geological history.
So without arguing about who’s right or wrong.
Or what the exact numbers are.
There can be little debate that there is, in fact, a very serious biodiversity crisis.
How does Biodiversity loss affect me and everyone else?
Human health is strongly linked to the health of ecosystems, which meet many of our most critical needs. "I understand there may be a biodiversity crisis, but how does that affect me?” -- Maria Neira, Director of WHO's Department for the Protection of the Human Environment
It's like this...
Biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. It is the link...
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