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The Extent of the Current Mass Extinction is Set to Surpass Our Expectations!

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Warren Henry
Warren Henry is a tech geek and video game enthusiast whose engaging and immersive narratives explore the intersection of technology and gaming.

A new study shows that ambitious targets aimed at curbing our current mass extinction may already be slipping out of reach a year after they were created.

Bird and mammal data show that there is a significant time gap between environmental change and its impact on animals, up to 45 years depending on species and drivers of change.

This means that the historic “Pact for Peace with Nature” adopted at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP 15) last December may already be outdated, as the extent of this delay has not been factored into future loss projections.

“It is widely recognized that there is little time for the comprehensive and ambitious actions needed to halt biodiversity loss by 2050. This work shows that there is less time than previously thought,” wrote Natural History Museum zoologist Richard Cornford and colleagues.

Cornford and colleagues show that past impacts of habitat loss and climate change explain current trends in bird and mammal population sizes better than recent impacts. Their results indicate that in most cases we will not see the overall effects of the changes we are implementing now for at least a decade, and until then we will already see the blocked effects of past land use and climate change on species abundance.

“Typically, larger species exhibit longer ecological delays than smaller ones,” explain Cornford and his team. Thus, we will see today’s impact on small birds and mammals in about ten years, but we will have to wait much longer to fully experience the impact, good or bad, on larger species.

Animal populations will continue to respond to past environmental changes until 2050.

“Thus, even radical land restoration efforts may not stop population decline by 2030,” the researchers conclude.

Cornford and colleagues are calling for urgent research to address this issue. The global extinction rate is now tens to thousands of times higher than would be expected without human intervention. We have changed up to 70% of all land, leaving behind less productive habitats.

Climate change is already changing life in our oceans and will only get worse.

This new study shows that we need to look even further ahead to understand their full impact on biodiversity. Protected areas are an asset in conservation efforts, especially for birds, and COP15 has committed to protecting 30% of the planet.

The team warns that “even if 30% of the land is protected by 2030, additional measures to reduce exploitation will be required to protect biodiversity.” The good news is that active management of protected areas reduces the threats from direct use of wildlife, such as hunting, which is important to many people’s livelihoods. This can continue if sustainable restrictions such as fishing quotas are maintained.

Moreover, efforts to manage and restore habitats also directly benefit human health, as healthy and functioning ecosystems are less likely to cause disease in the population.

The conservation of biodiversity is of great benefit to ourselves and the wider ecosystems in which we live, as well as to climate change mitigation. Our actions must be swift and meaningful if we are serious about saving what is left.

This study is published in the journal Proceedings. of Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Source: Science Alert

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