January 19, 2023

Why we are focussing on the biodiversity crisis

Planet Wild is a community of nature lovers who want to help rewild and protect the planet's biodiversity—here's why we are focussing on the biodiversity crisis.

The Earth hasn’t seen biodiversity loss like it’s experiencing today since the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the planet 65 million years ago.

It’s estimated that the global rate of species extinction is at least tens to hundreds of times higher now than the average has been over the past 10 million years. If we don’t act now, biologists believe almost half of all species on Earth will be gone in the next 50 years.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on our planet, including all species and ecosystems. It encompasses ant colonies, frozen tundras, rainforests, elephant herds, and birdlife. It supports the air we breathe and determines the baseline health status of every community on Earth.

How species interact with each other can be thought of like a Jenga tower: each piece from the smallest insect to the largest mammal playing a crucial role in supporting all life on the planet. As pieces of this Jenga tower slowly disappear, life on Earth becomes more unstable, more uninhabitable.

We are living through an extinction event.

Scientists believe we are now living through the sixth global extinction event since life on Earth began. But unlike the Ice Age or global warming caused by intense volcanic activity, this one is entirely of our own creation.

The effect of deforestation

Quick Facts:

  • Due to deforestation it’s estimated we are losing around 135 plants, animals and insect species every day. That’s 50,000 species a year.
  • In the past 12 years alone, 467 species have been declared extinct. These include species such as the Formosan Clouded Leopard, Pinta Tortoise (2012), West African Black Rhinoceros (2011) and the Spix's Macaw (2016).
  • It’s estimated that three-quarters of the land-based environment and two-thirds of our oceans have been significantly altered by human activity.
  • Living Planet’s 2022 report concluded that wildlife populations have plummeted 69% since 1970.
  • Up to one million species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.
  • We’re all aware of how climate change is warping our environment, and the massive impact carbon emissions have on the world around us, but the natural world is being lost on an unbelievably massive scale—and it's time we took matters into our own hands.

Why is it so important to protect biodiversity?

Biodiversity supports all life on Earth. It directly impacts the food we consume and our access to clean water, medicines and shelter. We don’t have to look very far to see the effects of the crisis.

Ecosystems support the Earth’s biosphere, the life web all living things need to survive. Without plants, there would be no oxygen. Without vast forests, there would be no way to draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Without bees, we cannot pollinate our crops.

Trees are 500 times more likely to grow once their seeds have passed through the digestive systems of animals. Without the organisms that live in our soil, we cannot keep land fertile to feed our booming population. The economic activities we rely on to survive cannot continue indefinitely if we are not taking care of biodiversity’s life-giving resources.

Biodiversity loss is also a direct threat to human health: not only because of its link to climate change and the increase in natural disasters. It has an impact down to the microscopic organisms that are responsible for cancer treatments, painkillers and other vital life-saving medicines.

Where can we see the biodiversity crisis happen?

From the bone-white coral skeletons that litter Australia’s coastline to the massive deforestation of the Amazon rainforest to make way for aggressive agricultural activity, the impact of human activity on the natural world is everywhere.

Let’s think about our pollinators. Butterflies, bats, birds, moths, and bees contribute to 75% of the world’s crop pollination—which some scientists estimate is one in three bites of food we eat!

A butterfly getting nectar from a flower

As a result of habitat loss, disease, environmental contaminants, and other human activities, these species are all struggling to maintain their populations. The disappearance of the honeybee poses a serious threat to crop fertilization and the food supply. Without our pollinators, we might start to see the breads, cereals, and vital grains we rely on begin to disappear from supermarket shelves.

As the world heats up, spring arrives earlier, which is changing the life cycles of many plants and animals. As a result, carnivorous species such as wolves or bears will often arrive at an area only to discover their migratory prey has already been and gone. These phenological mismatches result in changes in behavior, forcing animals further away from their habitat in search for food, water, and shelter.

In our oceans, climate change and irresponsible waste disposal have weakened its ability to withstand disturbances. Rising temperatures lead to species migrating to new areas. The increasing acidity of our oceans as they take in more CO2 erodes the calcareous skeletons or shells of certain marine animals, and massive overfishing has destroyed huge areas of the ocean floor, ripping up marine habitats.

What has caused this biodiversity crisis?

Unfortunately, we are the problem. The acceleration of human activity through industrialization, agricultural activity, deforestation, and overexploitation has drastically changed our world.

The biggest drivers of the biodiversity crisis include climate change, direct exploitation of natural resources, land/sea use change, pollution, and invasive alien species. These drivers directly impact various dimensions of biodiversity, even at the most basic cellular makeup of plants and animals.

Large machinery taking coal out the earth

Because of the vastness of the issue, it’s been difficult for world leaders to come up with the robust conclusions needed to address the crisis head on, allowing more of our natural world to slip away due to inaction.

For many ecosystems, the number one cause of the biodiversity crisis is habitation loss. Plants, animals and insects thrive in the wilderness, and creating wetlands, dams, dredging rivers, moving fields, and cutting down trees all contribute to the decimation of our natural world. Habitation loss is the primary cause of extinction.

What can we do to stop this mass extinction?

The good news is that damage caused by human activity in theory can be reversed—but only through direct action.

A 2009 study by Yale University found that forest ecosystems take 42 years on average to recover, while the ocean floor could recover in less than 10 years.

"The damages to these ecosystems are pretty serious," said Oswald Schmitz, an ecology professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "But the message is that if societies choose to become sustainable, ecosystems will recover. It isn't hopeless."

The fight isn’t over. This is the best news we have to fight the biodiversity crisis.

In 2022 several of the world’s nations gathered in Montreal for the UN Biodiversity conference (COP15) to discuss the ways we can slow down the assault on our natural world. The conference ended in a landmark agreement of 23 points to protect global biodiversity by 2030. Whether the conference will meet its goals by the deadline remains to be seen.

I want to help! How?

On a personal level, tackling such a huge global crisis might feel pretty impossible…

…But, that’s where we come in.

Planet Wild is dedicated to tackling the biodiversity crisis. We’re currently building a global community of people that deeply care about nature who want to help our planet bounce back.

No nonsense, no empty promises, just direct action to fight one of the biggest issues affecting our planet right now.

Here is an example of what you'll be helping us fund—we went to Tanzania to protect African elephants from conflicts with people using a genius (and natural) method!

Together we can make a visible change — which is why we need you.

Join our growing community of nature lovers today and help us protect and grow biodiversity projects worldwide! Become a Planet Wild member today!

A bison wearing sunglasses

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