The Risks of Declining Global Biodiversity

May 22nd, 2012 BY ChrisD | No Comments
marine life fishes

It only seems fitting on World Biodiversity to elaborate on the potential impacts of losses in global biodiversity. Since the 1970s, the losses have been severe. According to the 2012 Living Planet Report produced by the World Wildlife Fund, biodiversity has plummeted by 30 percent.

Sources and Recovery
In essence, humans use more of the resources of the planet faster than it can recover. For the annual toll of humans’ overuse, it takes the planet 1.5 years to restore the losses. It is easy to see why the Earth is on this course.

The countries with the most significant impact may surprise you, however. While the United States ranks in the top 10, countries like Kuwait and Denmark have a greater ecological footprint. The effects have been greatest on tropical species, with declines of about 70 percent in freshwater tropical species.

The Effects of Biodiversity Losses
The decline in biodiversity can have widespread and profound impacts. Biodiversity provides a genetic pool for adaptation to the changing environment. As human pressures grow, it becomes more critical for plant and wildlife species to cope. A loss in biodiversity can mean a potential decline in the resources that humans need, such as food and medicines.

There is another more subtle, yet potentially serious consequence. Just as the larger genetic pool benefits the environment, it also helps humans live and thrive. Exposure to microbes in the environment, for example, builds the immune system capacity to withstand harmful pathogens.

A study by the University of Helsinki in Finland found that individuals living in rural environments had a greater diversity of skin bacteria and a lower allergen sensitivity than their urban counterparts. This difference may give a biological edge to the rural-dwelling individuals when it comes to the prevalence of inflammatory diseases.

These findings put a whole new light on the importance of biodiversity in the environment on a global scale as well as from an individual perspective. Some experts warn that biodiversity decline is on a par with climate change in terms of its potential impacts.

As it stands now, species loss is up to 1,000 times that of the natural rate. With growing populations worldwide, this figure is likely to increase, along with the negative consequences it brings.

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