By Stephen Leahy
NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 28, 2010 (IPS)
One-fifth of all birds, fish and animals are threatened with extinction – as many as six million unique and irreplaceable forms of life – an authoritative new assessment warned Wednesday.
Deforestation, agricultural expansion, overfishing, invasive alien species and climate change are the specific causes, but the main engine of destruction is an economic system that is blind to the reality that there is no economy or human well-being without nature, experts here say.
“Without global conservation efforts the situation would be massively worse,” noted Simon Stuart, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, which launched the study at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, it is the most comprehensive assessment ever done of the world’s vertebrates – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes – Stuart said.
Every year, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move one step down a three-step path to extinction, according to the study, which utilised data for 25,000 species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Southeast Asia has experienced the most dramatic recent losses, largely driven by the planting of export crops like oil palm, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting, the study found. Parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America, and even Australia have also all experienced marked losses, in particular due to the impact of the deadly chytrid fungus on amphibians.
“The backbone of biodiversity is being eroded,” said the eminent U.S. ecologist and writer Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.
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