Biodiversity is for Sale

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The threats facing plant and animal life on the planet are greater than at any time in recorded history. Human pressure in the form of overharvesting and habitat loss is driving down wildlife populations worldwide. In our economies, wild species have little value. As long as trees, for example, are worth more cut than they are standing, the pressures to liquidate natural resources will be overwhelming.

Global biodiversity is under threat. The WWF's Living Planet Index, which measures trends in biodiversity and is an indicator of ecosystem health, reports that biological diversity has fallen by about 30 percent since 1970.

The loss to marine, terrestrial and freshwater systems is mainly linked to five threats or pressures: habitat destruction or degradation, over-exploitation of wild-harvested species, alien invasive species, pollution and climate change. These five factors are all expressions of the same underlying problem: Humanity's overuse of the planet's natural resources.

Global demand for soy and palm oil, for example, illustrates the direct link between human consumption and biodiversity loss. Export-oriented soy production give rise to plantations that destroy huge areas of forest ecosystems. The resulting habitat loss and invasive species that follow is devastating to biological diversity and rural communities.

Overexploitation of the world's fisheries and destructive fishing methods can lead to both collapsed fisheries and damaged habitats. Cattle grazing that competes with tropical forests is yet another example of how humanity's overuse degrades biodiversity.

Biodiversity loss cannot be comprehensively addressed without a sustained effort to reduce humanity's consumption of resources to levels that the planet is able to provide. This will require decision-makers to recognize the full value of these resources and the extensive consequences, both environmental and economic, of their overuse.

Further information:

  • WWF - Living Planet Report 2012 and Living Planet Report 2008
  • WWF – A Roadmap for a Living Planet
  • WWF on Biodiversity Strategy
  • UNDP: Latin America and the Caribbean: A Biodiversity Super Power. (2010)