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PMC Articles Tagged 'biodiversity'

Impacts of biodiversity loss rival those of climate change and pollution

May 4th, 2012 by PMC | Add a Comment

Thanks to John Feeney for alerting me to this important article. If you find this interesting, a second article on the same topic can be accessed here: http://www.imachordata.com/?p=1217

Impacts of biodiversity loss rival those of climate change and pollution

Current estimates suggest we are now, or soon will be, in the grip of earth’s sixth mass extinction of species. This is of course a tragedy in many ways-but will it really affect us in any substantial way? With the thundering hooves of all the other apocalyptic horsemen bearing down on us-global warming heating, hypoxic dead zones, overfishing, ocean acidification-can we afford to worry about declining biodiversity? Is this really that big a deal?

Yes. In fact we can’t afford not to worry about biodiversity.

That is the message from our new analysis, published online today in Nature. For the first time we’ve been able to compare-directly, quantitatively, and rigorously-the impacts of losing wild species to the effects of all the other human-caused environmental changes on the productivity and functioning of ecosystems and their ability to continue providing for us.

The time is ripe because two decades of research have now shown pretty conclusively that more biologically diverse ecosystems are generally more productive, as John previously highlighted here. And that means that ongoing extinctions of species caused by habitat loss, overharvesting, and a slew of other environmental changes might well stuff up nature’s ability to provide things we need and want. Like food, clean water, and a stable climate. But so far it’s been unclear how such biodiversity losses stack up against other big environmental changes.

Now we can answer that question with some confidence.

To read the full article, click here: http://theseamonster.net/2012/05/impacts-of-biodiversity-loss-rival-those-of-climate-change-and-pollution/

Revisiting Population Growth: The Impact of Ecological Limits

November 28th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Joe Bish for this article.  Originally published by Yale Environment360. Seehttp://e360.yale.edu/feature/how_environmental_limits_may_rein_in_soaring_populations/2453/

13 Oct 2011:Analysis

Revisiting Population Growth: The Impact of Ecological Limits

Demographers are predicting that world population will climb to 10 billion later this century. But with the planet heating up and growing numbers of people putting increasing pressure on water and food supplies and on life-sustaining ecosystems, will this projected population boom turn into a bust?

by robert engelman

The hard part about predicting the future, someone once said, is that it hasn’t happened yet. So it’s a bit curious that so few experts question the received demographic wisdom that the Earth will be home to roughly 9 billion people in 2050 and a stable 10 billion at the century’s end. Demographers seem comfortable projecting that life expectancy will keep rising while birth rates drift steadily downward, until human numbers hold steady with 3 billion more people than are alive today.

What’s odd about this demographic forecast is how little it seems to square with environmental ones. There’s little scientific dispute that the world is heading toward a warmer and harsher climate, less dependable water and energy supplies, less intact ecosystems with fewer species, more acidic oceans, and less naturally productive soils. Are we so smart and inventive that not one of these trends will have any impact on the number of human beings the planet sustains? When you put demographic projections side by side with environmental ones, the former actually mock the latter, suggesting that nothing in store for us will be more than an irritant. Human life will be less pleasant, perhaps, but it will never actually be threatened.

Some analysts, ranging from scientists David Pimentel of Cornell University to financial advisor and philanthropist Jeremy Grantham, dare to underline the possibility of a darker alternative future. Defying the optimistic majority, they suggest that humanity long ago overshot a truly sustainable world population, implying that apocalyptic horsemen old and new could cause widespread death as the environment unravels. Most writers on environment and population are loathe to touch such predictions. But we should be asking, at least, whether such possibilities are real enough to temper the usual demographic confidence about future population projections.

To read the full article, please click here: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/how_environmental_limits_may_rein_in_soaring_populations/2453/

Preserving 4 Percent of the Ocean Could Protect Most Marine Mammal Species, Study Finds

October 13th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to the Center for Biological Diversity for this article.  See: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2011/science-daily-08-30-2011.html

Science Daily, August 30, 2011

Preserving 4 Percent of the Ocean Could Protect Most Marine Mammal Species, Study Finds

Preserving just 4 percent of the ocean could protect crucial habitat for the vast majority of marine mammal species, from sea otters to blue whales, according to researchers at Stanford University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Their findings were published in the Aug. 16 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of the 129 species of marine mammals on Earth, including seals, dolphins and polar bears, approximately one-quarter are facing extinction, the study said.

“It’s important to protect marine mammals if you want to keep the ocean’s ecosystems functional,” said study co-author Paul Ehrlich, professor of biology and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford. “Many of them are top predators and have impacts all the way through the ecosystem. And they’re also beautiful and interesting.”

Mapping marine mammals

To pinpoint areas of the ocean where conservation could protect the maximum number of species and the ones most vulnerable to extinction, the researchers overlaid maps of where each marine mammal species is found. Their composite map revealed locations with the highest “species richness” — the highest number of different species.

Click here to read the full article: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2011/science-daily-08-30-2011.html

Global Warming May Cause Higher Loss of Biodiversity Than Previously Thought

September 29th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Madeline Weld for this article from Science Daily. See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824091146.htm

Global Warming May Cause Higher Loss of Biodiversity Than Previously Thought

ScienceDaily (Aug. 24, 2011) – If global warming continues as expected, it is estimated that almost a third of all flora and fauna species worldwide could become extinct. Scientists from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum, BiK-F) and the SENCKENBERG Gesellschaft für Naturkunde discovered that the proportion of actual biodiversity loss should quite clearly be revised upwards: by 2080, more than 80 % of genetic diversity within species may disappear in certain groups of organisms, according to researchers in the title story of the journal Nature Climate Change. The study is the first world-wide to quantify the loss of biological diversity on the basis of genetic diversity.

White branches show lost genetic lineages (no climatically suitable areas projected) in 2080 if global temperature increases by four degrees. (Credit: Copyright Miklos Bálint et al)

Most common models on the effects of climate change on flora and fauna concentrate on “classically” described species, in other words groups of organisms that are clearly separate from each other morphologically. Until now, however, so-called cryptic diversity has not been taken into account. It encompasses the diversity of genetic variations and deviations within described species, and can only be researched fully since the development of molecular-genetic methods. As well as the diversity of ecosystems and species, these genetic variations are a central part of global biodiversity.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110824091146.htm

Ongoing Global Biodiversity Loss Unstoppable With Protected Areas Alone

August 22nd, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Nick Rust for this very important article. See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728123059.htm

For the full report, visit http://www.int-res.com/articles/theme/m434p251.pdf

Ongoing Global Biodiversity Loss Unstoppable With Protected Areas Alone

ScienceDaily (July 29, 2011) – Continued reliance on a strategy of setting aside land and marine territories as “protected areas” is insufficient to stem global biodiversity loss, according to a comprehensive assessment published July 28 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Despite impressively rapid growth of protected land and marine areas worldwide — today totalling over 100,000 in number and covering 17 million square kilometers of land and 2 million square kilometers of oceans — biodiversity is in steep decline.

Expected scenarios of human population growth and consumption levels indicate that cumulative human demands will impose an unsustainable toll on Earth’s ecological resources and services accelerating the rate at which biodiversity is being lost.

Current and future human requirements will also exacerbate the challenge of effectively implementing protected areas while suggesting that effective biodiversity conservation requires new approaches that address underlying causes of biodiversity loss — including the growth of both human population and resource consumption.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728123059.htm

David Attenborough: This Heaving Planet

July 20th, 2011 by joe | 1 Comment

Thanks to Population Matters for this article by Sir David Attenborough.  See http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2011/04/human-population-essay-food

This Heaving Planet

By David Attenborough

April 27, 2011

Half a century ago, the WWF was formed to help save endangered animals. Today, it’s human beings who are increasingly at risk, through overpopulation and food scarcity. Can we bring our birth rate under control and avert potential catastrophe?

Fifty years ago, on 29 April 1961, a group of far-sighted people in this country got together to warn the world of an impending disaster. Among them were a distinguished scientist, Sir Julian Huxley; a bird-loving painter, Peter Scott; an advertising executive, Guy Mountford; a powerful and astonishingly effective civil servant, Max Nicholson – and several others.

They were all, in addition to their individual professions, dedicated naturalists, fascinated by the natural world not just in this country but internationally. And they noticed what few others had done – that all over the world, charismatic animals that were once numerous were beginning to disappear.

The Arabian oryx, which once had been widespread all over the Arabian Peninsula, had been reduced to a few hundred. In Spain, there were only about 90 imperial eagles left. The Californian condor was down to about 60. In Hawaii, a goose that once lived in flocks on the lava fields around the great volcanoes had been reduced to 50. And the strange rhinoceros that lived in the dwindling forests of Java – to about 40. These were the most extreme examples. Wherever naturalists looked they found species of animals whose populations were falling rapidly. This planet was in danger of losing a significant number of its inhabitants, both animals and plants.

Something had to be done. And that group determined to do it. They would need scientific advice to discover the causes of these impending disasters and to devise ways of slowing them and, they hoped, of stopping them. They would have to raise awareness and understanding of people everywhere; and, like all such ­enterprises, they would need money to enable them to take practical action.

They set about raising all three. Since the problem was an international one, they based themselves not in Britain but in the heart of Europe, in Switzerland. They called the orga­nisation that they created the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.newstatesman.com/environment/2011/04/human-population-essay-food

World’s Reef Fishes Tussling With Human Overpopulation

June 27th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Ben Zuckerman for this important article.  See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405130347.htm

Science Daily 4-5-11

World’s Reef Fishes Tussling With Human Overpopulation

“Coral reefs provide a range of critical goods and services to humanity — everything from nutrient cycling to food production to coast protection to economic revenues through tourism,” says Camilo Mora at Dalhousie University and lead researcher of the study. “Yet the complex nature and large-scale distribution of coral reefs is challenging scientists to understand if this natural ecosystem will continue working to deliver goods and services given the ongoing loss of biodiversity in coral reefs.”

“Numerous experiments have showed that biodiversity has positive effects on several ecosystem processes, although the number of species required to ensure the functionality of a given process is fairly low, as many species often have similar ecological roles,” says Michel Loreau from McGill University, a co-author of the study. “What remains largely unknown, however, is whether the results of experimental studies reflect what happens in real ecosystems.”

To fill this unknown, 55 researchers, in a two-year study, collected the necessary data to determine whether biodiversity influences the efficiency of reef fish systems to produce biomass, and if so, elucidate the role of humans in such a linkage. The team collected demographic data on human populations as well as environmental and biological data on the identity of species, their abundances and body sizes in almost two thousand coral reef locations worldwide. The data on abundance and body size were used to calculate the cumulative weight of all fishes on each reef (also called standing biomass), which is one of the main services reef fishes provide to humanity through food supply but also a very close proxy for how effectively ecosystems produce biomass.

“The results of the study were stunning,” says co-author Kevin Gaston at Sheffield University. “While experimental studies have elucidated that the biomass production of ecosystems stabilizes after a certain number of species is reached, this field study demonstrated that the production of biomass in reef fish systems did not saturate with the addition of new species.”

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405130347.htm

David Attenborough Talk on Population

April 27th, 2011 by joe | 1 Comment

Many thanks to Roger Martin of Population Matters for this March 10, 2011 talk by Sir David Attenborough to the Royal Society of Arts and Commerce.  The talk was introduced by the Duke of Edinburgh.  Eric Rimmer provided this link for viewing or listening to the talk: http://www.thersa.org/events/audio-and-past-events/2011/rsa-presidents-lecture-2011

PLANET AND POPULATION

Your Royal Highness, President, Ladies and Gentlemen.

May I first, sir, thank you for inviting me to give this, the last lecture in your Presidential series.  And may I also congratulate you, Sir, on your coming 90th birthday.    This year is a rich one, when to comes to anniversaries.  April 29th is the fiftieth birthday of an organisation without which our planet would be in much worse condition than it is today.

Fifty years ago, a group of far-sighted people in this country got together to warn the world of an impending disaster.  Among them were a distinguished scientist, Sir Julian Huxley; a bird-loving painter, Peter Scott;  an advertising executive, Guy Mountford;  and a powerful and astonishingly effective civil servant, Max Nicholson.  They were all, in addition to their individual professions, dedicated naturalists, fascinated by the natural world not just in this country but internationally.  And they noticed what few others had done – that all over the world, charismatic animals that were once numerous were beginning to disappear. The Arabian oryx , which once had been widespread all over the peninsula  had now been reduced to a few hundred.   In Spain, there were less than a hundred imperial eagles.   The Californian condor was down to about sixty.  In Hawaii, a goose that had lived in flocks on the lava fields around the great volcanoes were reduced to fifty.  The strange little rhinoceros that lived in the dwindling forests of Java – to about forty.  Wherever you looked there were examples of animals whose populations were falling rapidly.  This planet was in danger of losing a significant number of its inhabitants – both animals and plants.

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Good Cartoon

April 1st, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

Thanks to Fred Stanback for this cartoon.

NCSE calls for “Creating a Ten-Year Global, Integrative, Multi-Dimensional Biodiversity Initiative”

March 28th, 2011 by joe | Add a Comment

From the National Council for Science and the Environment.

A new Multi-dimensional Research Program for Global Biodiversity is needed, according to the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), The need for a decadal initiative is described in a new report “Creating a Ten-Year Global, Integrative, Multi-Dimensional Biodiversity Initiative” from NCSE and its partners the Encyclopedia of Life of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Committee on DIVERSITAS of US National Academy of Sciences.  The groups held an international workshop “Enabling Biodiversity Research: the Roles of Information and Support Networks” that brought together the leading biodiversity research-enabling institutions in based on a December 2009.

We conclude that the community of museums, databases and information systems, and other institutions that support biodiversity research is not sufficiently funded, organized nor large enough to meet the challenges of understanding biodiversity in time to avoid catastrophic losses of life’s richness. It is likely that much of life on Earth will vanish before it can be characterized, let alone understood. Vast storehouses of resources and the knowledge of those resources are endangered.

The world is experiencing unprecedented and accelerating losses of species, ecosystems and genetic resources (biodiversity). This situation has perilous consequences for humanity, which depends on life’s richness and variety for our very existence. Global trends of population growth, climatic disruption and unsustainable economic activity are driving major losses of irretrievable knowledge and resources.  A new generation of ‘multi-dimensional’ research is needed to understand the relationships and processes that link genes, gene expression, development, physiology, population and community ecology, speciation, ecosystem functioning, and other dimensions of biodiversity.

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