Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 17 prominent ecologists are calling for renewed international efforts to curb the loss of biological diversity, which is compromising nature’s ability to provide goods and services essential for human well-being.
Over the past two decades, strong scientific evidence has emerged showing that loss of the world’s biological diversity reduces the productivity and sustainability of natural ecosystems and decreases their ability to provide society with goods and services like food, wood, fodder, fertile soils and protection from pests and disease, according to an international team of ecologists led by U-M’s Bradley Cardinale.
Human actions are dismantling Earth’s natural ecosystems, resulting in species extinctions at rates several orders of magnitude faster than observed in the fossil record. Even so, there’s still time — if the nations of the world make biodiversity preservation an international priority — to conserve much of the remaining variety of life and to restore much of what’s been lost, Cardinale and his colleagues say.
The researchers present their findings in the June 7 edition of the journal Nature, in an article titled “Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity.” The paper is a scientific consensus statement that summarizes evidence that has emerged from more than 1,000 ecological studies over the past two decades.
“Much as the consensus statements by doctors led to public warnings that tobacco use is harmful to your health, this is a consensus statement by experts who agree that loss of Earth’s wild species will be harmful to the world’s ecosystems and may harm society by reducing ecosystem services that are essential to human health and prosperity,” says Cardinale, an associate professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
“We need to take biodiversity loss far more seriously — from individuals to international governing bodies — and take greater action to prevent further losses of species,” says Cardinale, the first author of the Nature paper.
An estimated 9 million species of plants, animals, protists and fungi inhabit the Earth, sharing it with some 7 billion people.
The call to action comes as international leaders prepare to gather in Rio de Janeiro on June 20-22 for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as the Rio+20 Conference. The upcoming conference marks the 20th anniversary of 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which resulted in 193 nations supporting the Convention on Biological Diversity’s goals of biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Additional U-M authors on the Nature paper are Patrick Venail and Anita Narwani of the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
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