Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 3   September 2011

Biodiversity On Earth Plummets, Despite Growth in Protected Habitats
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Hawaii: Despite rapid in growth in protecting land and sea habitats, reports say the world's diversity of species is plummeting.

Over 100,000 so-called "protected areas" have been established since the 1960s. This represents 7,000,000 square miles of land and 1,000,000 square miles of ocean.

Yet, terrestrial and marine species have declined over the same period. This suggests that simply protecting swaths of land and sea -- a common conservation strategy -- is inadequate. The earths' species are still disappearing. 

"The problem is bigger than one we can realistically solve with protected areas -- even if they work under the best conditions," said Camilo Mora from the University of Hawaii. "The protected area approach is expensive and requires a lot of political and human capital. Our suggestion is that we should redirect some of those resources to deal with ultimate solutions."

Scientists suggest say that reversing biodiversity losses requires a vast rethinking of conservation strategy and holistic solutions. This include reducing human population growth as well as new technologies to increase agriculture and aquaculture production to meet human needs.

Also needed, the authors wrote: a continued "restructuring of world views to bring them in line with a world of finite resources."

"In the final analysis, we have to recognize that we are pushing up against limits set by the way the biosphere functions," said Peter F. Sale from the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.  "Biodiversity loss is one sign of this."

The steady loss of biodiversity can have profound implications for civilization. We rely on it for healthy ecosystems that provide a host of ecological services. These include water filtration and oxygen generation food, medicine, clothing and fuel. One analyst estimates their value at  $33,000,000,000,000 globally.

The study says that well-designed and managed protected areas can prevent the extinction of species and ecosystems. But other forces reduce biodiversity overall. Among them are pollution, invasive species, and converting habitat for other uses such as farms, villages, cities, climate.

"Protected areas, as usually implemented, can only protect from over-exploitation, and from habitat destruction due to exploitation and other direct human actions within their borders. They are a tool for regulating human access and extraction," Sale said.

Another problem is that only 5.8% of land and 0.08% of marine sanctuaries see reliable, consistent enforcement. Other challenges include the size of these protected areas -- which are often too small for larger species to survive -- and the lack of connectivity between protected areas, which is needed for healthy genetic dispersal.

To preserve biodiversity, scientists say that between 10% - 30% of the world's ecosystems need to be protected. Despite the increase in protected lands, the pace is too slow.
Land Protection

The 10% target on land could not be reached until 2043.
The 30% on land won't be reached until 2197.

Marine Protection

The 10% target for marine sanctuaries would be reached by 2067.
The 30% for marine targets by 2092.

But scientists warn that these dates are far too optimistic. Global population is expected to pass 7,000,000,000  in October. That's an increase of 1,000,000,000 people in about a dozen years -- a nearly 15% population growth.
This will cause:

Demand on marine fisheries for food to increase 43% by 2030 Local extinctions and changes in species composition will increase up to 60%
CO2 emissions by 2050 to severely impact over 80% of the world's coral reefs and marine fish.  Growing human population and demand for housing, food and energy will increase the release of nutrients, pollutants, climate warming, and changing precipitation.

Read the report
Another gauge used to determine the future is the World Wildlife Fund's ZSL LIving Planet Index.


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