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 user 2006-03-21 at 10:16:00 am Views: 60
  • #15253

    Life’s diversity ‘being depleted’
    all indicators of the likely future for the diversity of life on Earth
    are heading in the wrong direction, a major new report says.
    Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) is published as national delegates
    gather in Brazil under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

    The Convention commits governments to slow the decline in the richness of living systems by 2010.
    The GBO says “unprecedented efforts” will be needed to achieve this aim.
    sets out 15 indicators of progress towards the 2010 target, ranging
    from trends in the extent of wildlife habitats to the build-up of
    nutrients such as nitrogen which can harm aquatic life.Only one of the
    15 – the area of the world’s surface officially protected for wildlife
    - is moving in the right direction for biodiversity.

    Resource demand challenges Earth’s regeneration capacity
    Fish are harvested faster than their natural replacement rate
    Water is being withdrawn faster than aquifers are replenished
    The biosphere takes one year and nearly three months to renew what humanity exploits in one year, on this analysis
    here, however, most areas still fall far short of targets to protect
    10% of each region with distinctive combinations of species.
    other indicators point to an accelerating decline, which has seen the
    rates of species extinctions surge to their highest levels since the
    demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
    Forests continue to be
    lost at a rate of six million hectares a year – that’s about four times
    the size of the English county of Yorkshire – and similar trends are
    noted for marine and coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs, kelp beds
    and mangrove forests.
    The abundance and variety of species continue
    to fall across the planet, according to an index measuring the
    percentage of species with good prospects for survival; bird variety is
    on the decline in every ecosystem type from the oceans to the forests.
    complete indications are available for other groups of animals and
    plants, but it is feared they would show a similar picture.
    Within reach
    report stresses that despite the gloomy trends, the target set by the
    Convention – involving a stabilisation, not a reversal of these losses
    - is still within reach.
    “Meeting the 2010 target is a considerable challenge, but by no means an impossible one,” the GBO notes.
    additional efforts are needed, and these must be squarely focused on
    addressing the main drivers of biodiversity loss.”
    These “drivers” are identified as:
        * the loss of habitat, largely through the expansion of agriculture
        * climate change
    * the introduction of alien species which can badly disrupt ecosystems
    after being carried across the world, often accidentally in ship
    ballast tanks
        * over-exploitation of wildlife, for example through overfishing
        * the build-up of nutrients through chemical fertilisers, sewage and air pollution
    great challenge in meeting the biodiversity target comes in the fact
    that these pressures are currently projected to remain constant or to
    accelerate in the near future – so slowing the extinction slide would
    involve major changes over wide areas of human activity.
    In the
    jargon, this requires “mainstreaming” of biodiversity concerns into
    areas of policy well beyond the remit of the environmental officials
    and ministers from more than 180 countries meeting in the Brazilian
    city of Curitiba over the next fortnight.
    Unless they can convince
    their colleagues responsible for agriculture, energy, world trade and
    industry that losing biodiversity threatens people and economies across
    the planet, the decisions and pledges they make will do little to
    reverse the trends identified in this report.

    The full economic value of sustainable ecosystem management is rarely recognised and frequently ignored
    Converting mangroves to shrimp farms brings immediate monetary benefit but diminishes other important ‘services’
    For example, mangroves provide timber, boost fisheries and provide storm protection – all of value to a much wider community
    If these ‘externalities’ are properly taken into account, the benefits of ecosystem conversion look weaker