Biodiversity – what is being done to halt the next mass extinction?

Team Mexico is in full swing and ready and raring to go to the WBCSD conference!

This week started with a discussion about the contemporary environmental problems and their origins, each one of us having to research one of the 5 key topics brought into discussion by our tutor, Jess Davies.

Considering that the world is facing substantial and ongoing losses of populations, species and habitats, our research point of interest was our planet’s biodiversity. One of the main issues here is that trying to quantify the world’s species is a gargantuan task with estimates on animal species alone ranging from 2 to 11 million species, scientists are still to agree on an exact figure. This makes it very difficult to calculate precise metrics for us to assess the damage of human activity on biodiversity. However we do have strong enough data to make claims such as – within certain class of species, up to two thirds are currently threatened with extinction!

Nonetheless, it is believed that, since the beginning of life, more than 95% of the species that have ever existed on Planet Earth have vanished due to mass extinctions. It is important to note here that these extinctions were a natural and unforeseen phenomenon brought on by events such as massive meteor collisions, not the activities of a single species. What we are seeing today is an accelerated mass extinction with very clear evidence linking it to human activity. A good example would be the impact that overfishing had on fish species in the North Sea, namely the Cod, but this is just one of a plethora of example we could have chosen.

However, it is not all doom and gloom in the world of biodiversity, there are tangible solutions that are being developed or are currently in use. For example the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) initiated the Strategic Biodiversity Plan 2011-2020 which aims to reform the way we look at biodiversity and the ways we treat and use it. Another interesting solution could lie within the realms of technology. Comprehensive computer models may be the answer by forecasting how human activities affect ecosystems. The specific system we researched is called the General Ecosystem Model however there is still further research to be done in order to use it to its full potential. It took 3 years to build this system, as it difficult to develop a mechanism to imitate all the organisms in the world with body masses ranging between 10 micrograms and 150,000 kilograms! You can find out more about it here.


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