Biodiversity loss

I used to think the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought with 30 years of good science we could address those problems, but I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy - and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation and we scientists don’t know how to do that.
—  Gus Speth
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Soundscape ecology is a fascinating field that is illustrating just how devastating the effects of human caused habitat destruction can be on biodiversity

What it all comes down to is that we don’t need to do this to animals. We don’t need to slaughter 6 million animals for food every single hour. We don’t need to over-farm to the point of biodiversity loss and species extinction. We don’t need to treat animals like they feel nothing, like they are nothing. And if we don’t need to do all of this, then why do we do it? Because it tastes good? Is that justification enough for the immense pain and suffering that millions of animals endure every hour?
—  excerpt from the book i’m writing. 

if you’re idea of a “successful” economic system yields massive ecosystem destruction, loss of biodiversity, acidifying oceans full of mercury and plastic, antibiotic-resistant bacterial outbreaks from factory farm runoff, soil degradation and topsoil erosion through industrial agriculture and monoculture, mass honeybee die-offs, contamination of groundwater from fracking/chemical spills/oil spills, and unfathomable amounts of waste, please fuck off

Limiting climate change requires stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. It implies the evolution of a society that becomes carbon-neutral on a global scale in this century. This would mean phasing out all fossil fuel-burning vehicles, aircraft, and electricity generating facilities or implementing permanent carbon sequestration–probably underground…. While these may sound like science fiction scenarios…, if the alternative is the inexorable and unmanageable loss of biodiversity, biologists have a strong reason to advocate exactly these changes.
—  Hannah, L., T.E. Lovejoy, T.E., and S.H. Schneider. 2005. Page 12 in T.E. Lovejoy and L. Hannah, editors. Climate Change and Biodiversity. Yale University Press.

Last week a report from WWF, the Living Planet Index 2014, seemed to confirm that grim picture with statistics on the world’s wildlife population which showed a dramatic reduction in numbers across countless species. The LPI showed the number of vertebrates had declined by 52% over four decades. Biodiversity loss has now reached “critical levels”. Some populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have suffered even bigger losses, with freshwater species declining by 76% over the same period. But it’s the creatures that provide the most “natural capital” or “ecosystem services” that are getting many scientists really worried. Three quarters of the world’s food production is thought to depend on bees and other pollinators such as hoverflies. Never mind how cute a panda is or how stunning a tiger, it’s worms that are grinding up our waste and taking it deep into the soil to turn into nutrients, bats that are catching mosquitoes and keeping malaria rates down. A study in North America has valued the loss of pest control from ongoing bat declines at more than $22bn in lost agricultural productivity.

“It’s the loss of the common species that will impact on people. Not so much the rarer creatures, because by the very nature of their rarity we’re not reliant on them in such an obvious way,” said Dr Nick Isaac, a macroecologist at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Oxfordshire. He says that recent work he and colleagues have been doing suggests that Britain’s insects and other invertebrates are declining just as fast as vertebrates, with “serious consequences for humanity”. “The really interesting thing about this work is that we are learning that it’s not just about the numbers of species going extinct, but the actual numbers in a population; that’s the beginning of a fundamental shift in our understanding,” he says.

He pointed to the fact that between 23% and 36% of all birds, mammals, and amphibians used for food or medicine are now threatened with extinction. In many parts of the world, wild-animal food sources are a critical part of the diet, particularly for the poor.

The blame, most agree, sits with unsustainable human consumption damaging ecosystems, creating climate change and destroying habitats at a far faster rate than previously thought. But this time it’s not just the “big cuddly mammals” we have to worry about losing but the smaller, less visible creatures upon which we depend – insects, creepy-crawlies and even worms. They might not be facing immediate extinction, but a decline in their numbers will affect us all. “There are some direct impacts from the indicators, we are going to feel the impact of those losses because the pattern is much the same with the UK species, with invertebrates as it is with vertebrates. It’s not just the simplistic – fish die and people starve – but more complex,” said Isaac.

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Our latest video - You might have heard that hedgehog numbers in the UK are in free-fall – but is it true? And if so, what’s the cause? Phil investigates with help from hedgehog expert Dr Toni Bunnell.

The Late Devonian Extinction

Towards the end of the Devonian period around 370 million years ago, a pair of major events known as the Kellwasser Event and the Hangenberg Event combined to cause an enormous loss in biodiversity.

Given that it took place over a huge span of time—estimates range from 500,000 to 25 million years—it isn’t possible to point to a single cause for the Devonian extinction, though some suggest that the amazing spread of plant life on land during this time may have changed the environment in ways that made life harder, and eventually impossible, for the species that died out.

Pictured is a tiktaalik, considered a transitional species between fishes and the first legged animals, that developed during the Devonian Period.

Learn about other mass extinction events

Illegal deforestation bad! Palm oil bad!

Habitat loss is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss and it’s happening more and more.

Read the BBC’s article on the matter here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment

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Invasive species: Not Knotweed!

Have you seen our latest episode? Invasive species are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity. Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica), is one such culprit, and is classified as an invasive species in Europe and North America. But why has it attained this less than prestigious title?

Critically Endangered!?

It’s so silly how people are allowed to have a critically endangered species as a pet, is it really the right move in order to conserve a species to sell them to the public. They should monitored by animal specialists and not handled by curious children, it’s no wonder there is such a huge biodiversity loss in the world when people are so inconsiderate about animal welfare and conservation issues. It seriously needs to be sorted out.