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    A million species endangered risk the web of life 

    EnvironmentAnimals and wildlifeA million species endangered risk the web of life 
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    A million species endangered risk the web of life 

    Illegal wildlife trade continues to pose a real danger to biodiversity, ecosystems and human health, as a number of emerging diseases stem from animal products, both domestic and wild.

    By Baher Kamal / Inter Press Service

    A million wild plant and animal species are now facing extinction. Three-quarters of the land-based environment, 85 per cent of wetlands, and two-thirds of oceans have been significantly and negatively altered by human activity.

    This warning comes from the United Nations, which revealed these facts in a curtain-raiser to the World Wildlife Day, marked 3 March. These are not by any means just mere figures – it points to risk of extinction of the whole life cycle. 

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    Moreover, the world body reports that over 8.400 species of wild fauna and flora are “critically endangered,” while close to 30.000 more are understood to be “endangered or vulnerable.”

    Wildlife, in peril everywhere

    “Today, all around the world, wildlife is in peril. A quarter of species face the threat of extinction, in large part because we have destroyed nearly half of the ecosystems in which they live,” said the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

    Wildlife needs to be cared for, the UN boss said. “Beyond a moral duty to sustain the earth, humanity depends on the essential products and services that nature provides, from food and fresh water to pollution control and carbon storage,” Guterres said. “By damaging the natural world, we threaten our own well-being.”

    Incalculable value

    Animals and plants that live in the wild have an intrinsic value and contribute to the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic aspects of human well-being and to sustainable development, the UN statement underlined.

    “The world is dealing with unprecedented threats to wildlife. Illegal wildlife trade continues to pose a real danger to biodiversity, ecosystems and human health, as a number of emerging diseases stem from animal products, both domestic and wild.”

    Humanity as a whole, threatened

    For its part, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that continued loss of species and degradation of habitats and ecosystems threatens humanity as a whole, as people everywhere rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all their needs, from food, medicines and health to fuel, housing, and clothing.

    Ivonne Higuero, the secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) had  said last November that “Biodiversity loss is an existential threat to people and the planet. The continued loss of wildlife species threatens to undermine entire ecosystems and puts into peril the well-being of all who rely on them…”

    There is no dearth of research and evidence pointing to the growing intensive and extensive human activities being among the main causes behind the loss of wildlife.

    On this, says the UN that “climate change, man-made changes to nature as well as crimes that disrupt biodiversity, such as deforestation, land-use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, can increase contact and the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) like COVID-19.”

    Concurrently, Marie Bout, a Global Communications Strategist with Greenpeace International’s political unit had said on this day in 2021 that just 15 per cent of the world’s forests remain intact, and only 3 per cent of the world’s oceans are free from human pressures.

    “The Planet is losing species – its biodiversity – at an alarming rate, thought to be comparable only to the fifth mass extinction 65 million years ago.”

    Why is biodiversity important?

    Biodiversity is built from three intertwining threads, Marie Bout explained: ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity. “Put simply, the more diverse these interwoven natural systems are, the more resilient they are to disturbances.”

    But the disappearance of a specie is like a thread in the web that is cut, leaving holes in the planet’s safety net and shifting the finely balanced systems, she warns.

    “That’s exactly what’s happening on Australia’s Great Barrier reef, one of the world’s most diverse reef ecosystems, which has lost more than half of its coral population since 1995 due to mass coral bleaching events and is dying before our eyes.”

    Supporting life on earth

    According to the Greenpeace activist, nature gives us what we need – food, clean air, and water are the foundations of life. Earth’s biodiversity has provided civilisations with the essentials we need to survive on this planet.

    Nature protects us, she says. Some of the most important roles of biodiversity are defensive. Our ecosystems help to regulate our climate and insure against disease outbreaks like Covid-19. Forests are important carbon sinks and essential for fighting the climate crisis, but oceans also play an important role.

    Nature also keeps things flowing – for example, nitrogen and phosphorus, two primary biological nutrients required by all life on earth circulate through Earth’s ecosystems. But human activity has so thoroughly disrupted Earth’s natural nutrient cycles that we have degraded soils and created aquatic dead zones.

    Lastly, according to Bout, nature even has the potential to solve future problems. Scientific knowledge continues to grow and evolve. The more that we can keep alive and thriving, the greater that knowledge can be. For example, nature has helped, and continues to help in important medical advances.

    What is destroying biodiversity?

    Greenpeace’s Marie Bout further says that as societies (and economies) have grown, so has their ecological footprint.

    “Destructive industries are piling more pressure on our planet’s web of life than at any other point in human history,” she says. “Mega corporations are burning polluting fossil fuels, are setting forests on fire to clear land to grow agricultural commodities and for single use products, and are plundering ever deeper and more remote areas of the oceans, they’re also polluting politics and holding our governments hostage in the process.”

    “Endless pursuit of limitless growth, on a planet with finite resources, has a predictable end that’s already in sight. So much of the wildlife on this planet, including humanity most likely, is heading for extinction.”

     

    Image: Hippopx, licensed to use Creative Commons Zero – CC0

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