The diversity of life across much of Earth has plunged below ‘safe’ levels

Jul 19, 2016

By Chris Mooney

In an ambitious study that represents the latest merger between big data approaches and the quest to conserve the planet, scientists have found that across a majority of the Earth’s land surface — including some of its most important types of terrain and its most populous regions — the abundance or overall number of animals and plants of different species has fallen below a “safe” level identified by biologists.

The reason is not exactly a surprise — from grasslands to tropical forests, humans are using more and more land for agriculture, to live on, to build roads and infrastructure upon. When we take over, we clear the land or otherwise convert it for our purposes. This doesn’t always cause extinctions, but it does reduce the abundance of species and what researchers call the “intactness” of ecosystems — and when biodiversity levels fall too low, it can mean that larger ecosystems lose their resilience or even, at the extreme, cease to function.

“Exploitation of terrestrial systems has been vital for human development throughout history, but the cost to biosphere integrity has been high,” notes the study published Thursday in Science, which was led by Tim Newbold of the United Nations Environment Programme and University College London with a large group of colleagues representing several British, Australian, Danish and Swiss universities and institutions.

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7 comments on “The diversity of life across much of Earth has plunged below ‘safe’ levels

  • in the context of this analysis, safety actually means safety for humans

    Inextricably linked to nature, still we shoot ourselves in the foot because a hungry belly trumps all.

    The u.s. planted more corn and soybeans this season (contributing to our Midwest heat dome); New South Wales farmers / government are playing “roulette” with ecology (accord. to news sources).

    A lament for prairies and koalas.

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  • quarecuss #2
    Jul 21, 2016 at 10:41 am

    anti-brexit articles are overflowing with comments

    The problems created by brexit COULD be fixed within a matter of months, by intelligent action from a few hundred politicians with expert advice and the guts to tell some fools what they do not want to hear.

    This is particularly foolish as reality is bound to hit the fools within a year or three anyway, and the song will change from “three-cheers for brexit”, to “Why didn’t anyone tell us?”!

    why not this one?

    This one requires management of worldwide ecosystems with international regulations which environmental scientists have been warning leaders about for decades.
    Those focussed only on fast money, are not interested in listening, and will continue to be not be interested in listening, for as long as politicians allow them privileged luxury life-styles as a reward for their reckless exploitation and damage to the planet.

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  • Comment #3 Alan

    Looking at the ability of politicians to cope with EU reform or brexit makes me think we have no chance when it comes to biodiversity and climate change the whole thing is just too complex for our political systems to deal with.

    All it will take now is for Trump to be elected and we’ll be finished.

    Sorry if going a bit off topic.

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