In a kick-off event for the UN’s Year of Biodiversity, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, compared the importance of saving biodiversity to stopping climate change.
“The question of preserving biological diversity is on the same scale as climate protection,” Merkel said today according to Reuters. Germany is the current chair of the UN Convention on Biodiversity. “We need a sea change. Here, now, immediately — not some time in the future. This year has to be used to relaunch this effort.”
Eight years ago nations pledged that by 2010 the world would achieve a ‘significant reduction’ in biodiversity loss. The target has not been met: if anything the extinction crisis is worse than it was eight years ago. Extinctions are estimated to be occurring at 1,000 times the natural background rate, and many ecologists believe we are entering a period of global mass extinction similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, only this time the cause is not celestial like a comet, but due solely to human activities.
Mysterious leafhopper insect in the tropical forests of Suriname. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
To stem the loss of biodiversity, Merkel suggested setting up a new UN body to focus on the science of biodiversity.
“It would be sensible to have an interface between the politics and the science to integrate knowledge, like the IPCC does with climate change,” she said.
The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a body made-up of climatologists tasked with the science of climate change.
Biodiversity provides essential ecosystem services, such as pollination, decomposition of waste, removal of toxins, soil fertility, erosion buffering, pest control, medicinal discoveries, food security, and carbon sequestration. According to UN estimates, such services are worth trillions annually. According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 36 percent of evaluated species are currently threatened with extinction.
“We must counter the perception that people are disconnected from our natural environment,” the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon said. “Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life.”
Species are threatened by a wide variety of human-caused impacts, but the largest include deforestation, habitat loss, invasive species, overconsumption, pollution, and climate change.
“We are facing an extinction crisis,” Jane Smart, director of the IUCN, told the BBC. “The loss of this beautiful and complex natural diversity that underpins all life on the planet is a serious threat to humankind now and in the future.”
Gone: a look at extinction over the past decade
(01/03/2010) No one can say with any certainty how many species went extinct from 2000-2009. Because no one knows if the world’s species number 3 million or 30 million, it is impossible to guess how many known species—let alone unknown—may have vanished recently. Species in tropical forests and the world’s oceans are notoriously under-surveyed leaving gaping holes where species can vanish taking all of their secrets—even knowledge of their existence—with them.
(11/30/2009) To save species around the world zoos say deeper emission cuts are needed than governments are currently proposing. Over 200 zoos worldwide have signed a petition calling on governments to set the target of atmospheric carbon below 350 parts per million (ppm) far lower than most government targets.
(11/04/2009) According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) 2008 report, released yesterday, 36 percent of the total species evaluated by the organization are threatened with extinction. If one adds the species classified as Near Threatened, the percentage jumps to 44 percent—nearly half.
(09/17/2009) Twenty-nine scientists argue in Science today that the world will not be able to lift up the world’s poor unless it also addresses global biodiversity loss. They say that the same underlying problems—exploitation of resources, unsustainable overconsumption, climate change, population growth—are exacerbating global poverty and the extinction of species.
(09/08/2009) Sometimes we lose sight of the forest by staring at the trees. When this happens we need something jarring and eloquent to pull us back to view the big picture again. This is what tropical ecologist Jaboury Ghazoul provided during a talk at the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting this summer in Marburg, Germany. Throwing out a dazzling array of big ideas and even bigger questions—incorporating natural history, biodiversity, morality, philosophy, and art—the enthusiastic Ghazoul left his audience in a state of wonder.
(09/03/2009) By investing billions in conserving natural areas now, governments could save trillions every year in ecosystem services, such as natural carbon sinks to fight climate change, according to a European report The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).
(08/24/2009) In a short interview with New Scientist, world renowned entomologist, conservationist, and author, E.O. Wilson speaks about his latest idea to save the world’s biodiversity.
(08/17/2009) Founded in 2004 by legendary conservationist Richard Leakey, WildlifeDirect is an innovative member of the conservation community. WildlifeDirect is really a meta-organization: it gathers together hundreds of conservation initiatives who blog regularly about the trials and joys of practicing on-the-ground conservation. From stories of gorillas reintroduced in the wild to tracking elephants in the Okavango Delta to saving sea turtles in Sumatra, WildlifeDirect provides the unique experience of actually hearing directly from scientists and conservationists worldwide.
(07/02/2009) Nearly 17,000 plant and animal species are known to be threatened with extinction, while more than 800 have disappeared over the past 500 years, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While these numbers are substantial, they are likely “gross” underestimates since only 2.7 percent of 1.8 million described species have been assessed. The IUCN report warns that governments will miss their 2010 target for reducing biodiversity loss.
(06/01/2009) It is unlikely that world government will keep their pledge to protect 10 percent of every ecological region by 2010, according to a new study published in Biological Conservation. This goal is just one of many agreed upon by world governments through the Convention on Biological Diversity. With less than a year to the goal’s deadline, the study found that half of the world’s ecoregions are currently below the 10 percent threshold.