UN: A third of the planet should be protected as wildlife habitats

17 Januari 2020

The planet is experiencing a mass extinction of species and we are the cause of it. But we can do something about it while there’s still time. We can stop cutting down forests. We can stop further fragmenting already fragmented wildlife habitats. And we can stop poaching endangered species.

But that’s just for starters.

Among other measures, by the end of the decade a third of the seas and land areas should be turned into protected areas, argues a United Nations agency that has just set forth a plan to save biodiversity on the planet within the coming decade.

At the moment, less than a tenth of marine areas are protected to varying degrees, generally in coastal areas. But the extent of protected marine habitats must be boosted significantly, including the high seas that fall outside national boundaries, to protect them from overfishing and other manmade causes, experts say.

“We need at least 30% of the ocean covered by ‘strict’ protection [because] 10% just isn’t going to do it,” Alex Rogers, professor of conservation biology at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, stresses.

Robust biodiversity is vital to the health of life on Earth, and the loss of it is an existential crisis for life on the planet. Yet efforts to ensure that biodiversity, or what’s left of it, remains intact have been faltering. “Despite ongoing efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide and this decline is projected to continue or worsen under business-as-usual scenarios,” warns the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Its panel of experts has laid out 20 global targets by 2030 to save flora and fauna from further depredation. Included in them are mitigating the effects of climate change by reducing CO2 emissions; transitioning to more sustainable agricultural practices to protect remaining forests and wildlife habitats; and cutting back on pollutants like plastic waste.

Time for action is of the essence as the rate of species extinction is accelerating. Across the planet keystone species like tigers are on the verge of extinction throughout their remaining ranges. Even insects, once comfortably abundant, are in dramatic decline, raising the specter of biodiversity collapse as insects play vital roles as pollinators and food for other animals. Amphibians and other often overlooked species aren’t doing much better, either.

In all, a million species are facing the threat of extinction, according to the United Nations. Three-quarters of the planet’s land areas and two-thirds of its marine habitats have been altered drastically by humans over the past few centuries. We’ve cut down forests, dumped vast amounts of waste into the oceans and introduced invasive species far and wide at the expense of native flora and fauna.

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