New Study Finds Biodiversity Has Been Declining and Humans Are to Blame
A report conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent body commissioned by various countries, investigated a recent decline in biodiversity, its causes and effects. A summary of the report published on May 6 stated that 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction and that this has ramifications for our health, agriculture systems and the “sustainable development goals” highlighted in the report. The full report is set to come out later this year.
The main causes of this decline in biodiversity are a misuse of land, over-exploitation of natural resources, climate change, pollution and invasive species. Overfishing, overworking of land for agriculture, and urbanization have also all significantly altered the natural balance of many ecosystems. Through these actions, humans have significantly changed 75% of all land and 66% of all aquatic environments. This damage caused to ecosystems is also hurting the viability of many plant and animal species because biodiversity and ecosystem security are very intertwined.
Typically, issues like biodiversity are portrayed as animal issues only when in reality they have consequences on important life-sustaining resources like food and medicine. The agriculture sector will be hit particularly hard by a decline in pollinator populations. which, the report projects, will lead to a $577 billion dollar loss in annual crop sales and will hurt the already fragile state of food security. There has also been a decline in the ecosystems that serve as natural flooding buffers. The decline in biodiversity will also hurt public health; roughly 4 billion people in the world are reliant on natural medicines. Also, many unique and declining ecosystems help filter water, air and store carbon.
Despite its extreme importance to almost every aspect of the environment and human life, the report paints a grim picture of the future of the Earth’s biodiversity, which has already been greatly harmed by humans. While paths for the mitigation of these issues exist, they are all radical and would demand action now. The summary of the report makes one thing clear: the effects of the human species’ poor treatment of the environment extend far beyond global warming.