Humanity Could Be the First Species to Document Its Own Extinction

The loss of biodiversity is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions. Diversity makes an ecosystems’ species and population more resilient to environmental stresses. The more species are diverse, the more functional resilience and redundancy the system has- the loss of one species has a smaller impact in a more diverse system rather than in a species-poor system.

Industrialization of agriculture over the past 50 years has led to a dramatic fall in the diversity of agricultural products. Plants and animals have been intensively selected for productivity. Leading to good results in the short term, but the standardized populations have no chance to resist future climate changes that will likely lead to the emergence of new pathogens. We will see mass crop failure of plants on which we have become over reliant.

Overall the picture is worrying, the high rates of biodiversity loss from habitat destruction, chemical pollution and invasive species will likely accelerate in the coming decades. The more agrobusiness rolls out monoculture crops, the more natural biodiversity dissolves as a result. Africa is expected to lose 50% of its birds and mammals and Asian fisheries to completely collapse by 2050. The loss of plants and sea life will reduce the Earth’s ability to absorb carbon.

The numbers are staggering and we may end up being the first species to document its own extinction. Basic nature based solutions like forest protection, tree planting, land restoration and soil management can provide up to a third of the carbon absorption needed to keep global warming within safer parameters, but more will need to be done to maintain the necessary biodiversity to ensure humanity’s survival.



Photo: “Lake Powell Half Empty” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0