Human activity is a leading cause of extinctions and an irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth. According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the following species are at threat of extinction:
-1 out of 8 birds
-1 out of 3 mammals
-1 out of 4 conifers
-1 out of 3 amphibians
-6 out of 9 marine turtles
-75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost
-70% of the world’s known species are at risk of extinction if global temperatures rise by more than 3.5 degrees C.
The five principle factors of biodiversity loss consist of habitat degradation, climate change, excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution, over-exploitation and unsustainable use, and an invasive alien species. In the instance of over-exploitation, human actions directly lead to the reduction of biodiversity. Bushmeat hunting and methods of commercial fishing both exploit unsustainable forms of life (www.cbd.int).
According to Dr. Monika Böhm, almost one in five reptiles are struggling to survive due to their highly “specialized habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes” (http://www.globalissues.org/).This graphic shows the categories of animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, etc.) and their danger of extinction within various regions of Africa. Typically, as the climate warms, the most vulnerable species are those that can only survive in a narrow zone of temperature or precipitation ranges (http://www.priweb.org/).
Ocean degradation has been continuing at an alarming rate. Fish as well as mammals (whales, dolphins, polar beats, etc.), penguins, and other creatures are at risk of significant loss in population. Considering 100 million metric tons of aquatic life are annually taken from nature, communities that rely upon meat for food sources and livelihood are likely to suffer as food insecurity continues to become a more prominent issue (http://wwf.panda.org/).
Efforts to reduce the loss of biodiversity have been, for the most part, futile. At the “Earth Summit” in the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, 192 countries committed to promote biodiversity. Attempts were largely unsuccessful as, in the year of 2010, there was no evidence of a reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity. According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Global Biodiversity Outlook 2010), “Actions to promote…biodiversity receive a tiny fraction of functions compared to…infrastructure and industrial developments. Moreover, biodiversity considerations are often ignored when such developments…. Actions to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, including demographic, economic, technological, socio-political and cultural pressures, in meaningful ways, have also been limited.”
As you can see, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows an increase in the number of total threatened species since the year 2000. This negative trend continues despite positive efforts, including the increase of nationally designated protect areas. Monetary value can’t be placed on the environment, but biological products or processes do account for an estimated 40% of world trade (http://www.globalissues.org/). Loss of biodiversity is an issue that, if not dealt with, will continue to have permanent impacts upon nature. The, often misquoted, Albert Einstein once said “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” So, ask yourself what you can do to help, but also how you can do it. An effort in vain produces the same results as no effort at all. Start today for a better tomorrow.