by Environmental Defense Fund | 5.24.19
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By David Festa, Senior Vice President of EDF's Ecosystems program.
Human activity puts 1 million species of plants and animals at risk of extinction, a startling report from the United Nations showed recently. It's a sobering warning — but if we rethink conservation, such destruction doesn't have to be our future.
Healthy ecosystems are essential for the well-being of both wildlife and people, which is why a House panel has summoned three of the U.N. report's key authors to brief Congressional lawmakers today about their findings.
Cropland, pastures and rangeland account for more than half of the land area in the United States and globally. These working lands are where wildlife is most threatened, but also where we can make the biggest advances in restoring habitat.
Protected lands are important for conservation, but islands of biodiversity aren't sufficient for the realities of the 21st century. We need to restore habitat at scale so that animals can move with shifting climate patterns.
Working lands can provide invaluable breeding grounds and migratory corridors for threatened species like the monarch butterfly.
It will require creative thinking and an open mind to unexpected conservation partnerships and approaches. Farmers are essential allies in the fight against extinction and can't be expected to bear all of the costs.
Policymakers, businesses and conservationists must collaborate with them to find innovative ways to increase funding for proactive conservation of key ecosystems, and to protect bedrock conservation principles.
The U.N. report highlights the need for fisheries reforms that can boost sustainable seafood production and resilient ecosystems.
The report's analysis of global marine ecosystems is alarming: One-third of fisheries are presently already overfished, and more than 33% of marine mammal species are threatened with extinction.
Peer-reviewed projections show that more than 80% of global fisheries will be in serious trouble by 2030 if there's no intervention. Fortunately, new science is showing us that the tools we're already using to reform fisheries around the world can help reverse some of these alarming trends.
By moving faster to put these fishing reforms in place — and by pulling out all stops to try to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius — the ocean can produce nearly one-third more fish than what exists today by 2100, rather than suffering a major decline.
It will help us prevent disaster and to foster a better future for fishing communities worldwide.
Adding to the plight of Earth's species are the rising impacts from rising global temperatures. Climate change is a "direct driver" speeding up the depletion of species, the U.N. reported.
About half the world's live cover on coral reefs has been lost since the 1870s, for example, with accelerating losses in recent decades as a warming ocean exacerbated other threats to corals. Today, 47% of threatened mammals such as bats have already seen population declines due to climate change.
The good news is that that just by catching methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, we can make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions. Methane pollution from all human activities is responsible for nearly 30% of the warming our planet is experiencing today — of which oil and gas accounts for nearly one-third.
By curbing methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, and by taking steps to rein in other forms of emissions, we can avert even more catastrophic climate impacts, and buy time for solutions that will allow more resilient land and marine ecosystems to flourish.
Written by Environmental Defense Fund
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