Nearly third of Earth’s sur­face must be pro­tected to pre­vent mass ex­tinc­tion

Tehran Times - - SOCIETY -

Two lead­ing sci­en­tists have is­sued a call for mas­sive swathes of the planet’s land and sea to be pro­tected from hu­man in­ter­fer­ence in or­der to avert mass ex­tinc­tion.

Cur­rent lev­els of pro­tec­tion “do not even come close to re­quired lev­els”, they said, urg­ing world lead­ers to come to a new ar­range­ment by which at least 30 per cent of the planet’s sur­face is for­mally pro­tected by 2030.

Chief sci­en­tist of the Na­tional Ge­o­graphic So­ci­ety Jonathan Bail­lie and Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sciences bi­ol­o­gist Ya-Ping Zhang made their views clear in an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished in the jour­nal Sci­ence.

They said the new tar­get was the ab­so­lute min­i­mum that ought to be con­served, and ide­ally this fig­ure should rise to 50 per cent by the mid­dle of the cen­tury.

“This will be ex­tremely chal­leng­ing, but it is pos­si­ble,” they said.

“Any­thing less will likely re­sult in a ma­jor ex­tinc­tion cri­sis and jeop­ar­dize the health and well­be­ing of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

Most cur­rent sci­en­tific es­ti­mates have the amount of space needed to safe­guard the world’s an­i­mals and plants at be­tween 25 and 75 per cent of land and oceans.

There is an enor­mous amount of un­cer­tainty due in no small part to in­com­plete knowl­edge about the num­ber of species on the planet and the roles they play in ecosys­tems.

Nev­er­the­less, the sci­en­tists dis­missed cur­rent pro­tec­tion of 3.6 per cent of the oceans and 14.7 per cent of land as way off the nec­es­sary tar­gets.

Re­searchers have warned of a “bi­o­log­i­cal an­ni­hi­la­tion” as many of the world’s crea­tures are wiped out due to hu­man im­pacts like pol­lu­tion and cli­mate change.

A re­cent study by BirdLife In­ter­na­tional re­vealed that sev­eral birds species, in­clud­ing the spix’s macaw, have gone ex­tinct in the wild in re­cent years.

In the UK ex­perts have warned that many of the na­tion’s best known species, in­clud­ing gar­den birds and hedge­hogs, are fac­ing alarm­ing de­clines.

Of the ar­eas that are cur­rently des­ig­nated as spe­cial pro­tected zones, many are so-called pa­per parks that are not prop­erly man­aged or are sub­ject to in­tense hu­man pres­sure.

A study pub­lished in May re­vealed that a third of the land in the world’s wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies and na­tional parks – a to­tal area of 2.3 mil­lion square miles – faces de­struc­tion due to hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties such as road build­ing and ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

In 2010 at the Nagoya Con­fer­ence of the Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Diver­sity, the world’s gov­ern­ments agreed to aim for 10 per cent of coastal and ma­rine ar­eas and 17 per cent of land pro­tected within a decade.

When lead­ers meet again in 2020 in Bei­jing, the sci­en­tists say that “given the ev­i­dence to date and the im­pli­ca­tions of an un­der­es­ti­mate” they must make their next tar­get far more am­bi­tious.

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