Biodiversity

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Biodiversity is the variety of all forms of life on Earth. It is a measure of genetic variation within species, the variety of species within ecosystems, and the variety of ecosystems on the planet. Variety is usually greater in warm areas; on land these are generally closer to the equator, and in the oceans along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperatures are highest. Biodiversity tends to cluster in "hotspots" and has been increasing over time, but is threatened by biodiversity loss.

See also Wikipedia article on Biodiversity

Biodiversity loss

There is evidence that Biodiversity has been reducing world-wide and in various local habitats at a rate which threatens ecological systems on which human well-being depends. Biodiversity loss is caused

  • directly by human land-use changes, such as the conversion of areas of wild to use for agriculture industry, human habitation, and renewable energy systems such as wind, solar, and hydroelectricity
  • indirectly by the effects of climate change on natural ecosystems: rising temperatures, changes to rainfall patterns, increased storm intensities, and increased duration of fire seasons and intensity of wildfires.

Studies

Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? A global assessment Tim Newbold, Lawrence N. Hudson, Andrew P. Arnell, Sara Contu, Adriana De Palma, Simon Ferrier, Samantha L. L. Hill, Andrew J. Hoskins, Igor Lysenko, Helen R. P. Phillips, Victoria J. Burton, Charlotte W. T. Chng, Susan Emerson, Di Gao, Gwilym Pask-Hale, Jon Hutton, Martin Jung, Katia Sanchez-Ortiz, Benno I. Simmons, Sarah Whitmee, Hanbin Zhang, Jörn P. W. Scharlemann, Andy Purvis; AAAS Science; 15 Jul 2016

Land use and related pressures have reduced local terrestrial biodiversity, but it is unclear how the magnitude of change relates to the recently proposed planetary boundary (“safe limit”). We estimate that land use and related pressures have already reduced local biodiversity intactness—the average proportion of natural biodiversity remaining in local ecosystems—beyond its recently proposed planetary boundary across 58.1% of the world’s land surface, where 71.4% of the human population live. Biodiversity intactness within most biomes (especially grassland biomes), most biodiversity hotspots, and even some wilderness areas is inferred to be beyond the boundary. Such widespread transgression of safe limits suggests that biodiversity loss, if unchecked, will undermine efforts toward long-term sustainable development.

Biodiversity falls below ‘safe levels’ globally UCL; 14 Jul 2016

Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.

“This is the first time we’ve quantified the effect of habitat loss on biodiversity globally in such detail and we’ve found that across most of the world biodiversity loss is no longer within the safe limit suggested by ecologists” explained lead researcher, Dr Tim Newbold from UCL and previously at UNEP-WCMC.

“We know biodiversity loss affects ecosystem function but how it does this is not entirely clear. What we do know is that in many parts of the world, we are approaching a situation where human intervention might be needed to sustain ecosystem function.”

The team found that grasslands, savannas and shrublands were most affected by biodiversity loss, followed closely by many of the world’s forests and woodlands. They say the ability of biodiversity in these areas to support key ecosystem functions such as growth of living organisms and nutrient cycling has become increasingly uncertain.

The study, published today in Science, led by researchers from UCL, the Natural History Museum and UNEP-WCMC, found that levels of biodiversity loss are so high that if left unchecked, they could undermine efforts towards long-term sustainable development.

Biodiversity is below safe levels across more than half of world's land – study Adam Vaughan; Guardian; 14 Jul 2016

Analysing 1.8m records from 39,123 sites across Earth, the international study found that a measure of the intactness of biodiversity at sites has fallen below a safety limit across 58.1% of the world’s land.

Nations Won’t Reach Paris Climate Goal Without Protecting Wildlife and Nature, Warns Report Ashley Braun; deSmog Blog; 23 Mar 2018

A sweeping new report released today emphasizes just how intertwined the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity truly are.

The Paris Climate Agreement and several other United Nations (UN) pacts “all depend on the health and vitality of our natural environment in all its diversity and complexity,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the UN-backed organization behind the report. “Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human well-being as is the fight against global climate change.”

The report comes from the efforts of more than 550 scientists in over 100 nations, corralled by an organization often dubbed “the IPCC for biodiversity.”

Much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses the state of research on global warming and its impacts, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reviews the best-available science on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to human well-being.

Climate Change not so Great for Wildlife

Three years in the making, the study concluded humans are causing the planet to lose species at such a rapid clip that the resulting risks are on par with those presented by climate change. On top of being unfortunate for those species that no longer exist, these losses also endanger people’s access to food, clean water, and energy, according to the report.

2019 Paris report

UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’

PARIS, 6 May – Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, meeting last week (29 April – 4 May) in Paris.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

“The member States of IPBES Plenary have now acknowledged that, by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good,” Watson said.

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. It is the first intergovernmental Report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.

Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

Nature On The Eve Of Destruction -- The UN Extinction Report James Conca; Forbes; 21 May 2019

One million species are close to extinction, thanks to Homo sapiens.

Thus warns a landmark new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), presented at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary meeting earlier this month in Paris.

Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the IPBES, said, “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

The Report highlights the urgency of global decarbonization and the need to increase nuclear power along with all other non-fossil energy sources. But while global warming will have a multiplier effect, this rapid decline in species is not just the result of climate change, but of humans all on their own.

Watson did say that it is not too late to make a difference. But we must start now at every level, from local to global, to make transformative changes, the type of changes the Nations of the World can’t seem to make on anything.

Biodiversity gain

Biodiversity can be restored locally through measures such as rewilding and reforestation. However reversing the global decline in biodiversity will require slowing, stopping, and possibly reversing climate change to restore stability to the climate and allow living creatures and ecosystems to adapt to new conditions.