Conservation news

Audio: The ‘Godfather of Biodiversity’ on why it’s time to manage Earth as a system

On this episode we welcome the godfather of biodiversity, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, to discuss some of the most important environmental issues we’re currently facing and why he believes the next decade will be the “last decade of real opportunity” to address those issues.

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Thomas Lovejoy is a conservation biologist, professor, director of the Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability at George Mason University, and a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation. He’s got a long history with the Amazon, having first encountered the rainforest as an undergrad at Yale in the 1960s. In the late 1970s, he helped launch the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), one of the longest-running landscape experiments in the Brazilian Amazon, designed to examine the consequences of fragmentation on the integrity of tropical forests and the biodiversity they harbor. He introduced the term “biological diversity” in a book in 1980 and his work ever since has helped establish the preservation of global biodiversity as one of the most important conservation issues of our time.

This past February, Lovejoy authored a commentary for the journal Science Advances called “Amazon Tipping Point” together with Carlos Nobre of the World Resources Institute Brazil. The scientists argue in the paper that “negative synergies between deforestation, climate change, and widespread use of fire indicate a tipping point for the Amazon system to flip to non-forest ecosystems in eastern, southern and central Amazonia at 20-25% deforestation.” He previously told Mongabay that he saw the major droughts the Amazon has experienced since 2005 as the “first flickerings” of this process.

Lovejoy joined the Mongabay Newscast to talk about how deforestation and the impacts of climate change could trigger dieback in the Amazon and other tropical forests, causing them to shift into non-forest ecosystems, as well as the other trends impacting the world’s biodiversity he’s most concerned about. He says it’s time for a paradigmatic shift in how we approach the conservation of the natural world: “We really have got to the point now where we need to think about managing the entire planet as a combined physical and biological system.” Particularly, he stresses the importance of reforestation efforts: “There’s time, through some conscientious reforestation, to build back the margin of safety.” But we must act quickly, Lovejoy says, because the next decade will be “the last decade of real opportunity.”

Here’s this episode’s top news:

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Featured image courtesy of The Center for Biodiversity and Sustainability.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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