published on 7 May 2019 in life

UN alarm: one million species risk extinction

Around one million animal and plant species of the approximately 8 million estimated to be present on the Earth risks extinction. This is the alarm raised by the United Nations in the “Global Assessment”, a report presented in Paris by IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services). The document was written by 145 expert authors from 50 different countries, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, who over the past three years have compiled what can be considered to be the most thorough report ever compiled in the world on the state of nature. We already know that humans are the direct and indirect cause of what has been termed the “sixth mass extinction”: human activities are increasing rapidly causing the deterioration of the health of ecosystems, from which we and all other species depend. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, of our means of subsistence, of food security, of health and of the quality of life all over the world.

The report makes a detailed assessment of the changes that have taken place over the past fifty years, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature as well as a series of possible scenarios for the coming decades. It can be seen from this report that the average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20% since 1900, that the fate of over 40% of amphibious species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and over one third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insects, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. No less than 680 species of vertebrates have become extinct since the 16th century due to human impact.

Despite this alarming picture, the report gives hope: it is not too late to make a difference, but we must act now and at every level, national and local, reorganising the system by means of technological, economic and social factors.

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