What is the state of biodiversity on Earth? Four scientific reports from the United Nations reveal that the Earth may be in store for a lonelier existence.
The planet is losing plants, animals, and clean water at dangerous rates.
United Nations Reports
Four new papers were recently published, showing the result of three years of hard work and research by 550 experts from a hundred countries. The assessments show the state of the planet in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem of the Earth's regions apart from the poles and open oceans. Analyzed were the Americas, Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Central Asia.
Findings of experts show that as of the moment in every assessed region, biodiversity is being degraded at a rapid rate because of pressures such as habitat stress, air, water, and land pollution, unsustainable use of natural resources, invasive species, and climate change.
The report presented region-specific assessments with regard to the biodiversity degradation. In the Americas, the rich biodiversity contributes immensely to poverty reduction and the economy.
However, assessments reveal that on average, the species population of a particular area is 31 percent smaller compared to the time of the European settlement.
If this trend continues due to climate change, this rate expected to reach 40 percent by 2050. Furthermore, nature's land-based contributions of $24 trillion per year are already 65 percent in decline.
As it stands, the biodiversity of animals and plants in Africa is already threatened by both man-made and natural causes. In fact, as Africa is especially vulnerable to climate change, by 2100, half of African birds and mammals could be lost, and African lakes and plants could see a 30 to 40 percent productivity reduction.
The current pressure on biodiversity could even worsen as the African population is expected to double by the year 2050.
In the Asia-Pacific, extreme weather events, invasive species, waste pollution, agricultural intensification, and sea level rise are the top threats to Asia-Pacific biodiversity. However, despite the serious biodiversity decline in the region, there has also been major successes in increasing protected areas.
In the last 25 years, there has been a 14 percent increase in marine protected areas and a 0.3 percent increase in land protected areas, leading to a 2.5 increase in forest cover.
That said, the efforts may still not be enough to stop the biodiversity loss, especially in marine ecosystems where coral reefs are seriously in danger.
Europe And Central Asia
An increase in conventional agriculture and forestry in Europe and Central Asia was seen as the major driver of biodiversity decline. In fact, 28 percent of species that can only be found in Europe are already threatened, and 42 percent of land and animal species in the region have already declined.
As it stands, wetlands in the region have been slashed in half since the 1970s.
"The people of the region consume more renewable natural resources than the region produces," said Professor Markus Fischer of Switzerland, co-chair of the Europe and Central Asia assessment.
That said, there were also observations of sustainable agricultural practices that are proving beneficial to the biodiversity.
With the results of the UN assessments, it is clear that there is still much work to do.
"Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human well-being as is the fight against global climate change," said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, the executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.