NEW DELHI: Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and its impact will see extinction of one million out of eight million total estimated number of animal and plant species on earth, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored, said the UN-backed inter-governmental body in a global report released in Paris on Monday.
Blaming “human activities’ for such threat, the body comprising 130 member countries including India, noted how the people have already severely altered 75% of land surface, 40% of marine environments and 50% of inland waterways, causing damage on natural world through massive urbanisation, deforestation and agricultural intensification.
As far as the extent of blame goes, the report identified changes in land and sea use as the biggest culprit followed by direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution and invasive alien species (from one habitat to another habitat). More than 2,500 conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land, currently occurring worldwide, are attributed to pressure on natural resources.
Though the report has not pin-pointed any country-specific damage, it assessed various findings which spoke in details about such damage in biodiversity hotspots even in India such as its Himalayan region, Indus basin, Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta and Western Ghats among others. Its details are expected to be published later this year.
Often described as the “IPCC for biodiversity”, the body – Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – however expressed hopes to still save the nature through sustainable practices.
“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,”said the IPBES chair, Robert Watson.
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 and even flags roles of indigenous people and local communities in protecting biodiversity to a great extent.
Ringing alarm bells on how fast human activities are degrading resources, it noted that the plastic pollution alone has increased tenfold since 1980; 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters while fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean “dead zones”, totalling more than 2,45000 sq km – a combined area greater than that of the UK.
Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, 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 noted that availability of native species in most of the land-based habitats has declined by 20%, mostly since 1900. Similarly, more than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened.
“At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened,” said the Report.
Key facts from the report
* Total estimated number of animal and plant species on Earth: 8 million
(It includes 5.5 million insect species)
* Up to 1 million species threatened with extinction, many within decades
* 300% increase in food crop production since 1970
* 23% land areas have seen a reduction in productivity due to land degradation
* 50% agricultural expansion that occurred at the expense of forests
* 100-300 million people in coastal areas are at increased risk due to loss of coastal habitat protection
* 1,000 green activists and journalists reporting on environmental issues killed between 2002 and 2013
* More than 100% growth of urban areas since 1992
* Less than 1% of total land used for mining, but the industry has significant negative impacts on biodiversity, emissions, water quality and human health
* 16-21 cm rise in global average sea level since 1900
* 100% increase since 1980 in greenhouse gas emissions, raising average global temperature by at least 0.7 degree