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Half the world’s ecosystems at risk from habitat loss, and Australia is one of the worst

James Watson and colleagues write in The Conversation (14.12.16) about habitat loss and risks to ecosystems from overdevelopment in sensitive areas, including in parts of Queensland.’Habitat loss is the most insidious of all threats facing land-living wildlife, and protected areas like national parks are one of the best ways to combat the destruction. But in research published recently in Conversation Letters, we show that in some places the pace of protected areas isn’t keeping up with the losses.’We found that since 1992, an area of natural habitat two-thirds the size of Australia has been converted to human use (such as farms, logging or cities). Half of the world’s land area is now dominated by humans.

‘When we looked at specific habitats (or “ecoregions”), we found that in almost half of them, more habitat has been lost than has been protected. Of developed nations, Australia is performing the worst.

‘This week, 196 signatory nations of the Convention of Biological Diversity, including Australia, are meeting in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss their progress towards averting the current biodiversity crisis.

‘While topics will vary widely from dealing with climate change, invasive species and illegal wildlife trade, a chief issue will likely be one that has been central to the convention since its ratification at Rio in 1992: how best to deal with habitat loss.’

The continuing loss of plant, animal and reptile species has dire consequences

David Shearman writes in Pearls & Irritations (20.1.21) about the cascading consequences of the continuing destruction of habitats and ecosystems in Australia and around the globe.

‘The global pandemic has engulfed the media, which consistently features health care workers struggling heroically in intensive care units to save stricken lives, sometimes at the expense of their own.

‘Intensive care units provide patients with mechanical support to breathe oxygen and maintain their nutrition, water needs and temperature control.

‘The same life support systems are provided to humanity by a stable climate, clean air, adequate water and the biodiversity of productive land. All are increasingly harmed by our failure to act on solid scientific evidence that we are harming them irrevocably.

‘These life support systems provide the basis for the sustainability of this continent for our health and survival.

‘A report card for each of these environmental life support systems would focus most attention on biodiversity because its importance is poorly understood and little is being done to maintain it. On most measureable environmental criteria, Australia’s environment is fast deteriorating.’

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