U.N. Meeting to Try to Slow Species Loss
A U.N. environmental meeting in Brazil from March 20-31 will review a world goal of slowing a drastic acceleration of the loss of animal and plant species by 2010.
Following are facts about species loss and the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, southern Brazil:
* Scientists say no one has a good idea about how many species -- from algae to elephants -- live on earth. Recent estimates range from five to 100 million.
* Extinction is a natural process but human activities -- expanding cities, pollution, deforestation, global warming blamed on burning of fossil fuels or the introduction of "invasive species" -- are dramatically accelerating the rate.
* World leaders agreed at a 2002 U.N. summit in Johannesburg to "achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth."
* A global "Red List" of endangered species has documented 844 extinctions since 1500, from the flightless dodo to the Golden Toad of Costa Rica. But experts believe the real number is far higher and that the planet may be facing one of the biggest waves of extinctions since the dinosaurs.
* More than 100 environment ministers will attend the final days of the Brazil meeting to discuss ways to safeguard the diversity of life on earth. Proposals include:
-- Widening of protected areas, perhaps to include parts of the high seas, beyond national jurisdictions. About 12-13 percent of the world's land area is in protected areas but only about 0.5 percent of the seas.
-- New international rules on sharing benefits from any genetic material used in "bio-products" such as pharmaceuticals or cosmetics. The rules would seek to encourage access to resources while ensuring that local communities gain a fair share of any wealth generated.
-- A scheme to promote traditional foods and more diverse diets to combat hunger and diversity of farm production.
-- An advance meeting in Curitiba this week is looking at rules on trade in genetically modified (GMO) foods.