The conversion of natural forests and grasslands to agriculture and livestock is the biggest cause of global biodiversity loss.
The conversion of natural forests and grasslands to agriculture and livestock is the biggest cause of global biodiversity loss. The next biggest drivers are the exploitation of wildlife through fishing, logging, trade and hunting - and then pollution. Climate change ranks fourth on land so far but second in oceans. This is the main result of an international study led by researchers from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba (UNC) in Argentina, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Natural History Museum London. The study, published in Science Advances, demonstrates that fighting climate change alone will not be enough to prevent the further loss of biodiversity.
Whilst climate change has rightly attracted attention for its catastrophic consequences for the natural world, it is currently only the fourth largest driver of biodiversity loss on land, followed by invasive alien species in fifth place. “This major new study, published during the COP27 climate summit, demonstrates clearly that fighting climate change alone will not be enough to prevent the further loss of biodiversity, and with it our future”, says Dr Nicolas Titeux, one of the two first authors. “The various direct drivers should be addressed with similar ambition as the climate crisis and as a whole.” Titeux currently works at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology but conducted the major part of the study at the UFZ with funding from iDiv.
Greenhouse gasses have been known to be the leading cause of the climate crisis for decades but just as important is understanding what is behind the enormous and rapid decline in species. A million species of animal and plant are threatened with extinction within the next few decades without significant countermeasures. Ecosystems worldwide are changing away from their natural condition, which means that they are increasingly unable to provide crucial ecosystem services for human well-being.
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