One million animals and plants at threat of extinction, warns UN

2019 - 05 - 06
One million animals and plants at threat of extinction, warns UN

A million animals and plants are in danger of becoming extinct, and many of them could disappear in the next decades. The UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned against this in a report published today.
The condition of nature that is necessary for humans to access water, food, energy or medicines is deteriorating “at the fastest pace in the history of mankind.” In their global assessment, experts claimed that only reform of the agricultural-food producing industry and significant reforms in production and consumption can help restore damaged ecosystems.

“We are destroying the very foundations of our economies, our means of nourishment, food safety, health and quality of life worldwide,” chairman of the intergovernmental panel Robert Watson said.

Approximately 450 experts worked on the report for three years. They defined five main reasons for the destruction of ecosystems: use of soil (agriculture, deforestation), direct use of sources (fishing, hunting), climate change, pollution, and invasive species. The result is danger to a million species of flora and fauna, out of the eight million estimated to live on Earth.

According to experts, people are using and polluting nature to the greatest degree in the history of mankind. They claim that “severe damage” has been suffered by 75 percent of onshore environments, and 66 percent of seas.

Some scientists have already warned that the planet is on the verge of the sixth mass extinction of species. “We lost 75 percent of species in the five previous mass extinctions (hundreds of millions years ago),” Robert Watson said. In the past 500 years, he said, the planet has lost two percent of species, which is far from the aforementioned threshold. Based on the IPBES report, however, the pace of species extinction is several hundred times faster than the average of the past ten million years. At a speed like this, the 75 percent threshold could be exceeded in several hundred years.

In reaction to the UN panel report, many world experts published an open letter called #Call4nature. In this letter, they challenge governments to act and to stop financing activities leading to the destruction of nature.

“The picture of destruction portrayed by the IPBES report is alarming. Protection of biodiversity must become a priority for European countries, too,” Dalibor Dostal, director of European Wildlife conservation organisation emphasised. In his view, Europe fails for example in the spread of invasive species, where no relevant measures that could be efficient in dealing with this problem have been taken yet.
European Wildlife supports the rescue of biodiversity in Europe by building of a network of non-governmental reserves. It focuses on the types of open country that are among the most endangered. It uses attractive, large species of ungulates, such as European bison, wild horses, and back-bred aurochs to care for the reserves.

Photo: Wikimedia / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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