Biodiversity loss could lead humanity to a point of no return

Threatened by deforestation, forests and other ecosystems are of vital importance for sustaining life on Earth and have an important role to play in combating climate change.

Biodiversity loss could lead humanity to a point of no return
Species disappearance rates are currently very high. Photo by Eelco Böhtlingk / Unsplash

More than 80 percent of the human diet is based on plants, fish provide 20 percent of animal proteins to approximately three billion people in the world, and close to 80 percent of those who live in rural areas of developing countries depend on traditional medicines obtained from the vegetation of their environment, according to data from the United Nations (UN).

The organization stresses that while we are increasingly aware that biological diversity is a global asset of great value for present and future generations, the number of species and ecosystems is declining at an accelerated rate due to human activity.

Forests, threatened by deforestation, as well as other ecosystems, are of vital importance for sustaining life on Earth and have an important role to play in combating climate change.

UN data indicate that the health of the planet also plays an important role in the emergence of communicable diseases between animals and humans. As we continue to invade fragile ecosystems, we come into greater contact with wildlife, allowing pathogens to spread to livestock and humans.

In this context, the researcher associated with the National Laboratory of Sustainability Sciences (LANCIS) of the Institute of Ecology (IE) of UNAM, Paola Massyel García Meneses, assures:

"Over the years we have been modifying the environment, using resources, and this has had a direct impact on biodiversity. It is known that humans and the accompanying biodiversity, which is mainly focused on livestock, account for about 96 percent of all mammals on the planet. Sixty percent are livestock, 36 percent are humans, and four percent are wild mammals. If we look at this proportion, we can see the loss of biological diversity".

The scientist recalls that over the last 200 years, land has been modified by human action, mainly in agricultural, livestock, and forestry matters; with the growth of cities, infrastructure has been installed and changes in land use have been made, which generate modifications in the land to use it for some anthropocentric purpose, affecting biodiversity. "There is a great impact that over the years continues to increase and the rates do not decrease, which is the most worrying thing."

Although during life on Earth there have been appearances of new species, extinctions and increase in biodiversity, and natural processes in the life cycle on the planet, currently the rates of disappearance are very high. "How fast this loss has been being what we need to pay close attention to." Moreover, "if we continue with current patterns we are probably approaching a point of no return," she warns.

In favor of the environment

LANCIS establishes links with other areas (governmental, academic, and civil organizations) to create synergies of metrics and resolve how to monitor and carry out counts in different areas of the country.

These are computational instruments and geographic information system designs in which several layers of information can be superimposed, for example with data on mammal, bird, or reptile species and then on factors that affect them, such as loss of land use, increase in populations or effects of climate change.

All of this is overlaid on geographic information systems and areas and species most vulnerable to biodiversity loss are identified.

They end up as maps, which can be printed out or studied dynamically on the computer to learn about species movements, migrations, and rates of population loss. Each year these databases are updated and the aim is to influence decision-making.

García Meneses considers that in the country there are adequate public policies on paper, but there is a lack of budget for monitoring and maintenance of scientific programs. It is also necessary to increase communication between the different levels (local, regional and national) that generate information and make decisions.

As citizens, she recommends raising awareness of biodiversity, a planetary natural wealth on which food, medicines, clothing, and access to water, among other benefits, depend. "We must be respectful of other forms of life, which are not harmful fauna. We can also reduce waste, especially of food, and think that behind every fruit and vegetable there is a pollinator and a seed carrier."