Wildlife & Biodiversity

1000000 species under extinction. Blame humans

The Global Ecosystem Assessment by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services shows the current rate and scale of extinction, caused majorly by humans, has never been seen

By Richard Mahapatra
Published: Monday 06 May 2019
Photo: IPBES

The first-ever Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) rings alarm bells on the state of the planet’s biodiversity.

“Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating with grave impacts on people around the world now likely,” says the report.

According to the global assessment, one million animal and plant species are under extinction. More to it, thousands of these would extinct within decades. “More than ever before in human history” is how the assessment report has termed the extinction rate. 

Since the beginning of the last century (1900), availability of native species in most of the land-based habitats has declined by 20 per cent. Similarly, 40 per cent of the amphibian species are threatened with extinction.

If one tracks back extinction of species to the 16th century, 680 vertebrate species have been pushed into extinction since then, while 9 per cent of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture went extinct by 2016. Add to it, 1,000 more such breeds are under threat of extinction. The assessment report says, “Almost 33 per cent of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened.”

“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” says Josef Settele (Germany) who co-chaired the assessment.

“This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world,” he says.  

The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is termed as the first-ever such comprehensive report. It took three years for a group of 145 expert authors from 50 countries to prepare this report based on more than 15,000 scientific and government documents.

It primarily looked or analysed the impact of economic development on nature and ecosystems. The assessment was released on May 6, 2019.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” says Robert Watson, the IPBES chair. 

On the human-induced loss in ecosystems, the assessment is precise. Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about two-thirds of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions, says the assessment. Nearly 75 per cent of all freshwater resources are now used for crop and livestock rearing activities.

The impacts are equally scary. For example, productivity in 23 per cent of global land has reduced due to land degradation. “Up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection,” says the assessment.

The assessment adds that this decline would continue till 2050. 

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