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At current pace the human expansion is forcing species to go extinct about 1000 times faster compared to nature process of selection.

According to the current estimates more than 25000 species are driven to extinction every year.

An estimated 80 percent of the original forest that covered the Earth 8,000 years ago has been cleared, damaged or fragmented.

The world's rain forests have about half of global biodiversity. But they are disappearing at a rate of 0.8 percent per year. Tropical forests are vanishing at an annual rate of four percent.

Greenpeace and Wilderness Society activists in their three month tree sit at the Styx Valley, Tasmania, Australia send a message to the 2,000 delegates meeting at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scientists agree world faces mass extinction


"Biodiversity includes all living things that we depend on for our economies and our lives," explained Brooks Yeager, vice president of global programs at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. "It's the forests, the oceans, the coral reefs, the marine fish, the algae, the insects that make up the living world around us and which we couldn't do without," he said.

Nearly 2 million species of plants and animals are known to science and experts say 50 times as many may not yet be discovered.

Yet most scientists agree that human activity is causing rapid deterioration in biodiversity. Expanding human settlements, logging, mining, agriculture and pollution are destroying ecosystems, upsetting nature's balance and driving many species to extinction.

In this article, scientists said that we have entered
a period of mass extinction not seen since the age of the dinosaurs, an emerging global crisis that could have disastrous effects on our future food supplies, our search for new medicines, and on the water we drink and the air we breathe. Extinction is figured by experts to be taking place between 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural "background" extinction.


At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago, world leaders signed a treaty to confront this crisis. But its results have been disappointing. According to Yeager, "It hasn't been a direct kind of impact that some of us had hoped for."

One hundred eighty-two nations are now parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The United States is the only industrial country that has failed to ratify it. But there is wide agreement that the treaty has had virtually no impact on continuing mass extinction.

The treaty is more like a political statement than a plan of action, setting very broad goals instead of real targets, and leaving it to national governments to decide how to reach them.

Many developing countries in tropical areas, where the most species of plant and animal can be found, wanted nothing in the treaty that could limit their freedom to exploit natural resources.

So the treaty was framed as a political compromise to balance three principles: conservation, sustainable development and fair sharing of the benefits of biodiversity.

In the process, critics say, the operation of the treaty has lost its focus. It's been distracted from science and conservation by other issues, such as "biopiracy" - determining who profits from genetic resources -- and "biosafety" -- controlling trade in genetically modified organisms, such as seeds, with built-in pesticides. Many pressure groups have forced governments to address the issues of "biopiracy" and "biosafety."
Debbie Barker, co-director of the California-based International Forum on Globalization, says, "You cannot really separate preservation and sustainability and conservation and biodiversity without addressing, for example, important new technologies like genetic engineering or genetic modification."
That may be true, but many scientists and conservationists say almost all the work at the treaty's conferences has been focused on these hot-button issues, including "biopiracy" and "biosafety", during the past decade. The result, they say, has been a lost opportunity to address the real crisis.
The member nations still stand by the treaty, but at a conference earlier this year at The Hague they issued a statement admitting humans are still destroying biodiversity at an unprecedented rate.

I think the Convention of biodiversity should be focus on how to conserve the species in danger, rather than focus on the political problems such as "biopiracy" and "biosafety". At this point, how to save the rare species and the whole ecological chain is much more important than economic profits, because this is connected to the survival of every species, including us. 

Resource:

Strieker, Gary , Scientists agree world faces mass extinction, August 23, 2002
<http://edition.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/08/23/green.century.mass.extinction/index.html>

Image, Chu, Jennifer, Timeline Of A Mass Extinction: New Evidence Points To Rapid Collapse Of Earth’s Species 252 Million Years Ago, <http://nanopatentsandinnovations.blogspot.com/2011/11/timeline-of-mass-extinction-new.html>

Monday, May 7, 2012

Conservation dilemma: Assisted Migration

Assisted migration is a contentious issue that places different conservation objectives at odds with one another.
This element of debate, together with the growing risk of biodiversity loss under climate change, means that now is the time for the conservation community to consider assisted migration.

However, scientists suggest that these policy decisions are not easy. First, the idiosyncrasy of species biology precludes the development of well-supported assisted-migration plansfor each of the many species likely to be threatened by changing climate. Consequently, managers will be forced to generalize expected range shifts based on broad classes of life-history characteristics. A similar approach has only had limited success in identifying likely invasive species. They expect that future “assisted-migration biologists” will find themselves in a similar position to today’s invasive species biologists: looking for useful generalizations in theory and struggling with unforeseen idiosyncrasies in practice. If this uncertainty is large, policies will have to incorporate adaptive flexibility. 

Assisted Migration in Action 

An estimated 200 translocations or re-introductions of 42 vertebrate species have been undertaken in Australia for conservation purposes. Mammals and birds have largely been the focus of these efforts to 
date. 

For example, a population of captive-bred dibblers, an endangered marsupial from Western Australia, was translocated to a predator-free island in the 1990’s.  This translocation has been deemed a success and dibblers have since been re-introduced on the mainland at several other sites.   

A similar translocation of Gilbert’s potoroo’s, Australia's most endangered mammal, to Bald Island also seems to have been successful, at least in the short term. 

However, not all translocations are successful and Australia seems to have a higher failure rate than many other parts of the world. This is probably related, in part, to the presence of introduced cats and foxes 
in most mainland habitats.    

Regardless of forthcoming scientific progress, the magnitude of impending climate-driven extinctions requires
immediate action. Delays in policy formulation and implementation will make the situation even more urgent. research specifically focused on assisted migration will be needed before science can answer questions fundamental to informed policies of assisted migration: Is there a demographic threshold that should trigger the implementation of assisted migration? What suite of species should be prioritized as candidates for translocation? How should populations be introduced to minimize adverse ecological effects?



Translocations to predator-free Escape Island 
have helped boost numbers of the endangered 
marsupial, the dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis).









Resources:

National Climate Change Adaptation Research facility, Assisted Migration as a Management Tool for Species Threatened by Climate Change<http://nccarf.jcu.edu.au/terrestrialbiodiversity/download/information_sheet_2_assisted_migration.pdf>

JASON S. MCLACHLAN, Conservation and Policy, A Framework for Debate of Assisted Migration in an Era of Climate Change,<http://www.cakex.org/sites/default/files/A%20Framework%20for%20Debate%20of%20Assisted%20Migration%20in%20an.pdf>

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Consequences of Biodiversity Loss

There is considerable evidence that contemporary biodiversity declines will lead to subsequent declines in ecosystem functioning and ecosystem stability. Biodiversity experiments have tested whether biodiversity declines will influence ecosystem functioning or stability by manipulating some component of biodiversity, such as the number of species, and measuring various types of ecosystem functioning or stability. 


These studies have been conducted in lab, grassland, forest, marine, and freshwater ecosystems. From these studies, it is clear that ecosystem functioning often depends on species richness,species composition, and functional group richness and can also depend on species evenness and genetic diversity. Furthermore, stability often depends on species richness and species composition. Thus, contemporary changes in biodiversity will likely lead to subsequent changes in ecosystem properties. Further investigation at larger spatiotemporal scales in managed ecosystems is needed to improve our understanding of the consequences of biodiversity declines.




Resources:
Isbell, F. (2010) Causes and Consequences of Biodiversity Declines. <http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/causes-and-consequences-of-biodiversity-declines-16132475>

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

News: New agricultural biodiversity project to improve nutrition, food security worldwide


Placing renewed emphasis on sustaining the natural variety of crops and animals contributing to agriculture, including neglected yet nutritious traditional foods, can improve food security and address growing global concerns over poor nutrition and its negative health effects, officials said at the launch of a new international project at the World Nutrition Rio Congress 2012.

The Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project aims to address the narrowing variety of people's diets, with nutritionally-poor processed foods dominating the dinner table. This trend has led to a raft of health issues worldwide. One third of the world's population suffers from hunger and micronutrient malnutrition, while obesity and diet-related chronic illness have reached critical levels.

The diversity of crops and their wild relatives, trees, animals, microbes and other species contributing to food production – known as agricultural biodiversity – can counter these trends, according to Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International, which is coordinating the project to further research and promote the links between biodiversity and good nutrition.

"To meet the challenge of feeding the world population of around nine billion by 2050, we need to consider not only sustainably producing sufficient food but also working towards diversified nutrition, which means providing a healthy diet for all," said Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). 

"Agricultural biodiversity plays a central role in meeting this challenge."
The Global Environment Facility (GEF), the world's largest public funder of international environmental projects, is supporting the multi-country project led by Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Bioversity International is coordinating the project with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

"The GEF is making efforts to expand its engagement in the conservation and management of agricultural biodiversity, which provides the mainstay for millions of people worldwide and food security to the world's most vulnerable populations," said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF.
In addition to researching biodiversity's role in nutrition, the US $35-million project, supported by the GEF with US$5.5 million and contributions from partner governments and international agencies, aims to provide information on the nutritional and health benefits of traditional food sources to the four partner countries.
The results will enhance the development of policies and regulatory frameworks that promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of often-neglected and forgotten traditional foods, which are often more nutritious and better adapted to local environments, thus having less impact on ecosystems.

"In India, for example, a long series of studies to improve the use of so-called minor millets among very poor farmers has shown multiple beneficial impacts on yields, incomes, profits, the nutritional value of popular snack and breakfast foods and female empowerment, all promoting the likely conservation of these crops and their biological diversity in farmers' fields," Mr. Frison said.

Examples of these foods, some of which have gained global popularity, are:

Indigenous leafy vegetables such as amaranth leaves, cleome and nightshade, which are now acknowledged as significant sources of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants

Lycopene-rich guava varieties, acerola and pitanga. In Brazil, which already has a great deal of biodiversity in its food supply, these former garden fruits are now commercially produced and processed. Another nutrient-rich fruit from Brazil and elsewhere is the popular açaí berry.

Food condiments and spices, which have recently been reported to have anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic, and anti carcinogenic properties. Spices also contribute to daily intakes of iron, zinc and calcium

Arugula (or rocket), a nutritious vegetable once collected as a wild food, and quinoa, an extremely nutritious grain-like crop from the Andes, have both found wide-scale acceptance in the grocery aisles and on restaurant tables throughout the world as a healthy and tasty food. Quinoa holds particular promise in that it is highly adaptable to different climatic and geographic conditions. The United Nations has declared 2013 to be the year of the Quinoa.

The project is consistent with the Cross-Cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition, which was adopted by the CBD at the eighth Conference of the Parties in 2006, recognizing the importance of the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition.

"Diversity of diet, founded on diverse farming systems, delivers better nutrition and greater health, with additional benefits for human productivity and livelihoods," said Emile Frison, Director General of Bioversity International. "Agricultural biodiversity is absolutely essential to cope with the predicted impacts of climate change."

"Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey contain unique agricultural biological diversity that is crucial to the world's food supply," said Marieta Sakalian, UNEP Senior Programme Management Officer, Biodiversity. "This project provides an exceptional platform for bringing key international partners together with the agriculture, environment, health and education sectors at national level to work towards conserving and promoting biodiversity for food and nutrition."

The FAO's principal nutrition officer Barbara Burlingame notes that dietary energy requirements can be satisfied without biodiversity, but micronutrient requirements can only be met through a diversified diet, with biodiversity being the key: "This project includes a research component that will help to improve the evidence base on the nutritional attributes of food biodiversity, thus linking food and nutrition security with conserving biodiversity through sustainable use."

Bibliography

Press Release,New agricultural biodiversity project to improve nutrition, food security worldwide, April 30, 2012, <http://www.worldstagegroup.com/worldstagenew/index.php?active=news&newscid=4652&catid=36>

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Images from Google Earth




A close up view of habitat destruction in Madagascar. 

The pattern shown here indicates: 1) clear-cutting the rain forest in order to harvest timber; and 2) conversion of rain forest to pasture land to support grazing cattle.












Deforestation in Borneo. 

As in Madagascar, deforestation progresses as a wave of destruction moving from the coasts toward the interior.
















Deforestation in Kenya surrounds islands of protected lands.


















Deforestation in Rondonia, Brazil.


















Deforestation in Weakley County, Tennessee, USA.















Deforestation in Orange County, CA, USA. Endangered Coastal Sage Scrub habitat inconveniently occupies the most buildable land in Southern California.













Tom E. Morris, Habitat loss, biodiversity, and conservation, 2009<http://morriscourse.com/elements_of_ecology/chapter_28.htm>

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Human: the cause of the loss of biodiversity

The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world’s ecosystem, In fact human beings have deeply altered the environment, and have modified the territory, exploiting the species directly, for example by fishing and hunting, changing the biogeochemical cycles and transferring species from one area to another of the Planet. The threats to biodiversity can be summarized in the following main points:


Alteration and loss of the habitats: the transformation of the natural areas determines not only the loss of the vegetable species, but also a decrease in the animal species associated to them. Refer to “Alteration and loss of the habitats”.


Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms: species originating from a particular area, introduced into new natural environments can lead to different forms of imbalance in the ecological equilibrium. Refer to, “Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms”.

Pollution: human activity influences the natural environment producing negative, direct or indirect, effects that alter the flow of energy, the chemical and physical constitution of the environment and abundance of the species;

Climate change: for example, heating of the Earth’s surface affects biodiversity because it endangers all the species that adapted to the cold due to the latitude (the Polar species) or the altitude (mountain species).

Overexploitation of resources: when the activities connected with capturing and harvesting (hunting, fishing, farming) a renewable natural resource in a particular area is excessively intense, the resource itself may become exhausted, as for example, is the case of sardines, herrings, cod, tuna and many other species that man captures without leaving enough time for the organisms to reproduce.



It scares me that these main causes of the loss of biodiversity are all due to human beings. Almost every little things we have done is affecting others organisms, like turing on the air conditioners, find a living space, eating genetically modified food, driving cars, fishing, etc. I think we should raise awareness that these behaviors may cause the loss of biodiversity, but is it possible for us to stop doing them? 


Resources:


Causes of the loss of biodiversity, <http://www.eniscuola.net/en/life/contenuti/biodiversity/left/loss-of-biodiversity/causes-of-the-loss-of-biodiversity/>


Picture, Avoiding Endangered Seafood in Your Kitchen
<http://ecohomeresource.com/2010/06/avoiding-endangered-seafood-in.html>



Facts on Biodiversity


  • Scientists estimate that between 150 and 200 species of life become extinct every 24 hours.
  • There have always been periods of extinction in the planet's history, but this episode of species extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced for the past 65 million years-the greatest rate of extinction since the vanishing of the dinosaurs.
  • Some 60 per cent of the plant species endemic to the Galapagos Islands are threatened with extinction, as are 75 per cent of the endemic plant species of the Canary Islands. If we continue with our unsustainable patterns of activity, one-fifth of all species could become extinct in the next two decades.
  • This mass extinction is due, in large measure, to humankind's unsustainable methods of production and consumption.
  • More than 60 per cent of the world's people depend directly on plants for their medicines.
  • About 12 per cent of mammal species and 11 percent of bird species were classified as threatened in 1990.
  • According to the World Resources Institute, the biggest cause of extinction is loss of habitat. 
  • There are as many as 100 million species on Earth, of which only 1.7 million have been identified.

  • Some recent studies suggest that 30% of all natural species will be extinct by 2050 if current trend of biodiversity loss continues in the next few decades.


The United Nations Environment Programme, Key facts on Biodiversity, 1996, <http://www.nyo.unep.org/action/10f.htm>
Ecological Problems, Facts about biodiversity, Mar, 2010, <http://ecological-problems.blogspot.com/2010/03/facts-about-biodiversity.html>

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