Science News

Losing the war on biodiversity loss

Sun, 2nd May 2010

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The world is still loosing biodiversity at an alarming rate despite world leaders promising in 2002 to cut the rate of loss by 2010. That’s the stark warning from a paper published in the journal Science this week by a large team of international researchers.

Amazonian rainforest, upper Amazon basin, Loreto region, Peru.Together they pooled data from the past four decades on 31 “indicators” of the state and pressures on biodiversity and found no signs of improvement but many of continued breakdown of species, populations and ecosystems as well as unrelenting impacts from human activities. It means that the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which meets later this year, will fall a long way short of it’s intended targets.
Especially worrying is that these indicators were set by the CBC specifically to measure the success of this global pledge and include a wide variety of things including the area and health of various habitats like seagrasses, forests and coral reefs, the number of overexploited fish stocks, the number of endangered species, and water quality.

There is some good news though, with increases in the number of protected areas – although we still need many more - and commitment to tackling invasive species. There are also a few cases demonstrating that where there is political will and necessary money, biodiversity loss can be reduced or reversed.

This finding probably comes as no great surprise. We hear so much of the ongoing problems faced by the natural world, it was hardly likely that this study would paint anything except a fairy dismal picture. So why do we need studies like this?
This was a huge study with a vast amount of information squeezed together to provide a short, sharp message. There’s no hiding from it: we are still loosing biodiversity.
Some people argue that we loose a lot of important detail in sweeping studies like this, but it is the sort of thing that will capture international attention, in particular politicians and decision makers. With so much data all pointing in the same direction, no one can deny that there is still a big problem and action must be taken to tackle it especially since it is widely recognised that biodiversity loss has a major impact on human health.
There have been major advances in how scientists use indicators of planetary health like these, although this study highlights that we still know most about certain animals in certain parts of the world, with major gaps in knowledge still getting in the way of a complete picture.

Hopefully this study will stimulate world leaders to start setting out tough new plans for reversing the downward spiral of global biodiversity and help make sure that next time we stick to our promises.

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