“It’s a problem if we continue this unsustainable pattern of production and consumption,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the UN’s leading figure on biological diversity. “If the 9 billion people predicted to be with us by 2050 were to have the same lifestyle as Americans, we would need five planets.”
The escalating extinction crisis shows that the diversity of nature cannot support the current pressure that humanity is placing on the planet.
Every day species’ extinctions are continuing at up to 1,000 times or more the natural rate. The extinction of individual species, but also habitat destruction, land conversion for agriculture and development, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species are only some of the threats responsible for today's crisis.
What are the Main Threats to Biodiversity?
Threats to biodiversity are numerous and human activity is responsible for most of them.
- Habitat loss and degradation affects 86% of all threatened birds, 86% of the threatened mammals assessed and 88% of the threatened amphibians.
- Introductions of invasive alien species that establish and spread outside their normal distribution. Some of the most threatening invasive species include cats and rats, green crabs, zebra mussels, the African tulip tree and the brown tree snake. Introductions of alien species can happen deliberately or unintentionally, for example, by organisms “hitch-hiking” in containers, ships, cars or soil.
- Over-exploitation of natural resources. Resource extraction, hunting, and fishing for food, pets, and medicine.
- Pollution and diseases. For example, excessive fertilizer use leads to excessive levels of nutrients in soil and water.
- Human-induced climate change. For example, climate change is altering migratory species patterns, and increasing coral bleaching.
What About Climate Change?
Biodiversity and climate change are very closely related issues.
Biodiversity is strongly affected by climate change so we need to make additional efforts to minimize the negative influence of other factors, such as over-exploitation, habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, and the spread of invasive alien species. This way we can ensure that ecosystems are less vulnerable and more resilient to the increasing threat posed by climate change.
But climate change can also largely benefit from conserved biodiversity and particularly healthy ecosystems when these are placed at the very centre of the efforts to tackle climate change.
Through absorbing and storing carbon in a range of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, such as forests, peatlands and other wetlands, biodiversity contributes to climate change mitigation- by storing carbon dioxide.
Biodiversity also helps people to adapt to climate change through providing the ecosystem services which reduce their vulnerability and enhance their adaptive capacity to change. This includes the coastal protection provided by coastal mangrove forests from flooding and coastal erosion caused by sea-level rise and more powerful storms.
Third of All Plants and Animals Face Extinction
Issues in Biodiversity