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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Biodiversity loss and the European Parliament

Biodiversity loss: what is causing it and why is it a concern?

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20200109STO69929/biodiversity-loss-what-is-causing-it-and-why-is-it-a-concern

biodiversity

Plant and animal species are disappearing at an ever faster rate due to human activity. What are the causes and why does biodiversity matter?

Biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has been declining at an alarming rate in recent years, mainly due to human activities, such as land use changes, pollution and climate change.

On 16 January MEPs called for legally binding targets to stop biodiversity loss to be agreed at a UN biodiversity conference (COP15) in China in October. The conference brings together parties to the 1993 UN Biodiversity Convention to decide on its post-2020 strategy. Parliament wants the EU to take the lead by ensuring that 30% of EU territory consists of natural areas by 2030 and considering biodiversity in all EU policies.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is traditionally defined as the variety of life on Earth in all its forms. It comprises the number of species, their genetic variation and the interaction of these lifeforms within complex ecosystems.

In a UN report published in 2019, scientists warned that one million species – out of an estimated total of eight million – are threatened with extinction, many within decades. Some researchers even consider we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history. Earlier known mass extinctions wiped out between 60% and 95% of all species. It takes millions of years for ecosystems to recover from such an event.

Why is biodiversity important?

Healthy ecosystems provide us with many essentials we take for granted. Plants convert energy from the sun making it available to other life forms. Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients providing plants with healthy soil to grow in. Pollinators are essential in plant reproduction, guaranteeing our food production. Plants and oceans act as major carbon sinks.

In short, biodiversity provides us with clean air, fresh water, good quality soil and crop pollination. It helps us fight climate change and adapt to it as well reduce the impact of natural hazards.

Since living organisms interact in dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of one species can have a far-reaching impact on the food chain. It is impossible to know exactly what the consequences of mass extinctions would be for humans, but we do know that for now the diversity of nature allows us to thrive.

Main reasons for biodiversity loss 
  • Changes in land use (e.g. deforestation, intensive mono-culture, urbanisation) 
  • Direct exploitation such as hunting and over-fishing
  • Climate change 
  • Pollution 
  • Invasive alien species 

What measures does the Parliament propose?

MEPs are calling for legally binding targets both locally and globally, in order to encourage more ambitious measures to ensure the conservation and the restoration of biodiversity. Natural areas should cover 30% of the EU territory by 2030 and degraded ecosystems should be restored. In order to guarantee sufficient financing, Parliament proposes that 10% of the EU’s next long-term budget is devoted to conservation of biodiversity.

The Parliament also wants a better protection of pollinators, such as bees. In December 2019, MEPs criticised the EU pollinators’ initiative presented by the European Commission as insufficient to tackle the root causes of the declines.

 



 


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“Favourite” crops provide little nutrition for pollinators

A report reviewed by Phoebe Weston in The Independent” suggests that western appetites for foods, such as avocados, coffee and citrus fruits, are threatening global food security.

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/monocultures-coffee-avocados-threaten-global-food-production-a8999561.html?SPnews17July

The cited study analysed 40 years of data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the cultivation of field crops between 1961 and 2016.  They found that global diversity of crops has declined, as soyabean, canola and palm take up more land than ever – crops that only provide nutrition for pollinators during a narrow window of time, whilst they are in bloom.  As well as this, farmers are growing more crops that require pollination, such as fruits, nuts and oil seeds, because there is an increasing demand for them and they have a higher market value.

The report suggests that countries that diversity their crops are going to benefit more than those which expand with only a limited range of crops. Countries listed as most unstable in this respect are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, where expansion of soybean farms has driven deforestation and the loss of meadows. Soy production has risen by about 30% per decade globally.  These crops are an unstable source of food for insects, which are in decline globally.

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Deforestation

A similar effect is occurring in Malaysia and Indonesia due to the clearance of forests to grow palm and market palm oil across the world.  These mono-culture crops are creating unstable agricultural environments, as well as the loss of many forest-dwelling creatures and pollinating insects, such as bees.

Europe has a different problem in that farmland is getting smaller, to be replaced by urban development, and to favour the growing of pollinating-dependent crops. This is happening in the UK, Denmark, Germany, France, Austria and Finland.

bee

Although it is mainly poorer regions which are most at risk, the consequencies of crop failure would be felt world-wide.



In recognition of the problems mentioned above, a seven-mile long bee corridor is being developed in London.  Wildflower meadows will be put in place in 22 of Brent Council’s parks in north London. The seeds will be sown across parks in the Brent Council area including Barham Park, Gladstone Park and Tiverton.  This initiative has been praised by Jeremy Corbyn (report from BBC).