Humans Now Wiping Out Species at 1,000 Times the Natural Rate


The Borneo Orangutan, one of the most endangered species in the world.

Eight years ago, world governments made a pledge to put a halt to growing biodiversity loss by 2010. They have not succeeded. The ongoing loss of biodiversity has instead become even more severe of a threat to the planet's once-balanced ecosystems--it's become a full-on extinction crisis. Thanks to human development and expansion, species are now going extinct exponentially faster than ever before--they're dying out at the frightening speed of 1,000 times the natural rate.This has lead many to term the current period of biodiversity loss 'the sixth great extinction'--but instead of a natural event like an asteroid impact, this one is being caused by the development of human infrastructure, and the expansion of farming and of cities. With the worldwide population surging, biodiversity in sensitive areas like the Amazon and the Indonesian islands--and just about everywhere else--is suffering as deforestation occurs in more and more new frontiers.


The most endangered bat in the US--the Florida Bonneted Bat

All this has led the UN to launch the International Year of Biodiversity agenda, in order to protect the world's threatened ecosystems and the species that live within. The BBC reports that UN Secretary General Mr Ban-Ki Moon "is due to say that human expansion is wiping out species at about 1,000 times the "natural" or "background" rate, and that "business as usual is not an option"." Which is quite right. He's also "expected to argue that the failure to protect biodiversity "should be a wake-up call", leading to effective ways of protecting forests, watersheds, coral reefs and other ecosystems." All of which are issues that are in dire need of being addressed, and soon.


The Mediterranean Monk Seal, another of the planet's most endangered creatures

In order to impart the severity of the situation onto the global community, Moon is going to address the plight in economic terms, noting the great loss humanity will suffer if we continue to destroy species--along with the services they provide--at this monstrous rate. From the BBC:

as natural systems such as forests and wetlands disappear, humanity loses the services they currently provide for free, such as the purification of air and water, protection from extreme weather events and the provision of materials for shelter and fire.
And yes, all this has a very real, very quantifiable price tag: "A large on-going UN-sponsored study into the economics of biodiversity suggests that deforestation alone costs the global economy $2-5 trillion each year."


A severely threatened fungus, the Funcia di basilicu

Which means there is literally every conceivable reason to act to halt the loss of biodiversity. I, for one, do not look forward to attempting to live in a world where humans have exterminated the very species that made our existence possible--perhaps we can settle for eliminating species at rate that's only 500 times faster than the natural one this year.

For more info, here's a slideshow of the most endangered species in the world as of 2009.

More on Biodiversity Loss
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Reducing Biodiversity Increases Risk that Diseases will Jump from Animals to People
Biodiversity : The 'Cinderella' of the Environmental Agenda?
Vote for the Cutest Endangered Species

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Endangered Species