Image for Global extinctions accelerating - the World gets another Wake Up call on biodiversity loss

On Monday this week (10 May 2010) United Nations General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon released the latest outlook report equivalent of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assessment report on global warming; this time on Earth’s biodiversity. The third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook was simultaneously released in the world capitals including New York, London, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney.

The UN Outlook report assesses the overall health of the abundance and range of Earth’s plant & animal diversity. In launching the report the Executive Secretary on the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity, Ahmen Djoghlaf, said the news was not good.

“We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate never before seen in history - extinction rates for species may be up to 1000 times the historical background rate.”

“Business-as-usual is longer an option if we are to avoid irreversible damage…”

UN General Secretary said the World needed a “new vision of biological diversity for a healthy planet and a sustainable future for mankind.”

Projected extinction rates for Earth’s animal and plant species will continue and accelerate far above the historical rate through the 21st Century. More species will tip into being defined as ‘threatened species’ under both national and international criteria with human impacts and climate change being the principle reasons. Whole ecosystems such as coral reefs, wetlands and tropical & temperate forests were now under constant stress.

The outlook report states that if the rate of species extinction hits what they call crucial “tipping points”, there is a risk that natural systems that help to sustain crops and keep water clean could be irreversibly damaged.

The report warns: “This makes the impacts of global change on biodiversity hard to predict, difficult to control once they begun, and slow, expensive or impossible to reverse, once they have occurred.”

An astonishing revelation of the report is the dramatic reduction in the numbers of individual organisms making up the Earth’s Biodiversity. They estimate that since 1970 the abundance of wild vertebrate species including fish, amphibians, bird, reptiles and mammals (other than Homo sapiens) has declined by an alarming 31%.

Currently an one quarter of Earth’s plant biota (I in 4 species) face extinction!

Australia’s report card tracks closely this global trend, but what about Tasmania? A good question, most likely with a similar grim answer.

*From the recently published Tim Squires/Sally Bryant book, Animals of Tasmania,  HERE