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Wednesday, February 2, 2011


The United Nations has released an alarming report which shows that the world has failed to stop rapidly falling rates of biodiversity around the globe. According to the report, mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish plummeted by a third between 1970 and 2006. The Global Biodiversity Outlook-3 GBO-3 report shows that both population and extinction are growing at rates higher than any point in history, leaving many to wonder how we will be able to stem the tide.
It’s not just already endangered species like corals or rare birds feeling the heat, either – the report found more than 60 livestock breeds have gone extinct since 2000. What’s driving this? Pollution, overexploitation, climate change and invasive alien species are the primary culprits although secondary issues like the loss of habitats are having an impact as well.
Global population figures currently sit at approximately 6 billion, and are expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050. However, the impact that biodiversity has on population isn’t widely covered or widely understood.
What is biodiversity? Biodiversity is the measure and variation of species across the planet and within specific ecosystems. Biodiversity impacts all parts of life from the foods we eat, to where and how we live. Some scientists believe that the loss of biodiversity can also point to some changes in climate as well as changes in over all health as the loss of life also contributes to a weakening of the genetic code. According to research, 99.9 percent of the species that have ever inhabited the Earth are now extinct. Puts the loss of that .1 percent in a little more perspective doesn’t it?
In 2002, 190 countries came together to reduce the loss of biodiversity and according to the report, they failed. GBO-3 found that none of 21 biodiversity targets set in 2002 were met, including targets to curb the rate of habitat loss and degradation, protect at least 10 per cent of the Earth’s ecological regions, control the spread of invasive species and ensure international trade does not threaten any species with extinction. Instead, the rate has increased and seemingly has nothing stopping it. The failure to halt losses will continue to have an immediate impact on life sustaining services that come from nature, such as drinkable water, and crop pollination.
The report is the result of a combined effort of 31 different surveillance schemes working in concert to create the first ever fully comprehensive biodiversity tracking measurement.
While governments have instituted more measures to stop practices like logging, or over-fishing few have been as successful as they should be. Many governments are powerless to stop illegal logging, or gain control on over-fishing. This is where our responsibility as ethical consumers becomes even more important, to make sure that we aren’t inadvertently supporting those practices.
2010 was slated to be the year of biodiversity, originally with the goal of celebrating successes in cutting back the loss of species. However, the failures cited in the report mean that 2010 will be anything but. Now, with a renewed sense of urgency, UN leaders and groups across the world are calling for a fresh look at how we can restructure our practices and stem the tide.
Some observers have pointed to the global financial restructuring as an opportunity to address biodiversity concerns thus resulting in a more sustainable future through all facets of our infrastructure. Scientists claim that some of the lack of success can be attributed to underfunding of protection initiatives and that an additional $4 billion a year to provide adequate funding to protecting species from extinction would have a dramatic effect on increasing the success rate of biodiversity measures.

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