A new United Nations assessment has concluded that humans have now put 1 million animal and plant species at risk of extinction, confirming the "unprecedented" effect of human activity on the planet at large.
The 1,500 page report, approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released yesterday in Paris.
Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which was established in 2012 by the United Nations Environment Programme, said in a statement:
"The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide."
"For a long time, people just thought of biodiversity as saving nature for its own sake. But this report makes clear the links between biodiversity and nature and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries."
Among the report's key findings:
- 25 percent of mammals, more than 40 percent of amphibian species, nearly 33 percent of sharks and 25 percent of plant groups are threatened with extinction.
- The average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more.
- Global warming has accelerated wildlife decline.
- Biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050 unless countries make strong commitments to conservation.
- Approximately 1 million animal and plant species could die out "within decades."
- Changes in land use, pollution, poaching, overfishing and climate change are the primary threats to the planet's biodiversity.
The human impact on nature has been so devastating that the study's authors call for "transformative changes" to either halt or reverse the threat to biodiversity.
Watson says governments must make this a priority as climate change:
"Loss of biodiversity is just as important as climate change for the future of mankind. The two are highly coupled. You can't deal with climate change without dealing with biodiversity."
Many policymakers are calling for changes in the wake of the report.
The U.N.'s report comes as the world grapples with a sixth mass extinction, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The publication blames human overpopulation and overconsumption for the "biological annihilation" of wildlife in recent decades.
In February, an alarming study published in the journal Biological Conservation found that 40 percent of insect species on the planet are in population decline as a result of climate change, pesticide usage, and the introduction of invasive species that "could have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind."
You can read a summary of the U.N. report's findings HERE.