Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Loss of biodiversity a growing threat to human life

University of British Columbia: The loss of biological diversity is increasingly threatening the planet’s ability to provide humans with life’s essentials: food, water, fodder, fertile soils, and protection from pests and disease, according to a sweeping review of 20 years of research by an international team of ecologists, including biologists from the University of British Columbia.

The 17 researchers present their findings in the June 7 edition of the journal Nature in a scientific consensus statement that summarizes evidence that has emerged from more than 1,000 ecological studies conducted since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“We’ve reached a point where efforts to preserve species and biological diversity might no longer be an act of altruism,” says Diane Srivastava, professor with the Department of Zoology and the Biodiversity Research Centre at UBC and author on the paper.

“This research review dramatically underscores the importance of strengthening–not weakening or curtailing–environmental assessment processes in order to stem the tide of the loss of species and diversity that so many humans depend on. This is particularly true in economies heavily reliant on natural resources, like British Columbia’s.”

The balance of evidence reviewed in the study shows that genetic diversity increases the yield of commercial crops, enhances the production of wood in tree plantations, improves the production of fodder in grasslands, and increases the stability of yields in fisheries. Plant diversity also contributes to greater resistance to invasion by exotic plants, inhibits plant pathogens such as fungal and viral infections, increases above-ground carbon sequestration through enhanced biomass, and increases nutrient remineralization and soil organic matter....

A represention of Yggrasil, the tree of life, by FrostZERO, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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