UN Report: Earth is on track to lose more than 1,000 wild mammal species


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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Every day billions of people depend on wild flora and fauna to obtain food, medicine and energy. New UN-backed research says that overexploitation and climate change, as well as pollution, are threatening one million species.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, reported Friday that the Earth could lose 12% of its wild tree species and over 1000 wild mammal species, as well as 450 species each of sharks and Rays, if humankind doesn’t improve sustainable use of the environment.

Humans use about 50,000 wild species routinely and 1 out of 5 people of the world’s 7.9 billion population depend on those species for food and income, the report said. 1 in 3 people use fuel wood for cooking. This number is even higher for Africa.

“It’s essential that those uses be sustainable because you need them to be there for your children and grandchildren. So when uses of wild species become unsustainable, it’s bad for the species, it’s bad for the ecosystem and it’s bad for the people,” report co-chair Marla R. Emery of the United States told The Associated Press.

Massive limestone quarries in Perak state Malaysia have been deforested. They can be seen in Ipoh (Nov. 5, 2021).

The report provides more than just a grim picture. It also offers policymakers recommendations and gives examples of how to sustain wild fauna or flora. The report stated that tenure rights should be secured for Indigenous and local peoples who have made sustainable use of wild species in the past.

The study found that Indigenous peoples own approximately 38,000,000 km (14,600,000.000 sq miles) of land in 87 nations, which is equivalent to 40% of the terrestrial conservation areas.

“Their lands tend to be doing better in sustainability than other lands. And the common thread is the ability to continue to engage in customary practices,” said Emery, who is also a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service.

Emery stated that it was essential to ensure the survival of Indigenous languages through international and national systems such as education. This allows older members to pass on traditional knowledge about sustainable practices to younger generations.

An example of good practice is fishing arapaima, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, in Brazil’s Amazon, co-chair of the report Jean-Marc Fromentin of France told the AP.

“It was a move from an unsustainable to a sustainable situation,” Fromentin said. “Some communities in Brazil created community-based management and then called some scientists to learn more about the fish’s biology and to put in place an efficient monitoring system. It worked so well that the model went to other communities and countries like Peru.”

Members of the Deni Indigenous people work during the arapaima fishing season in the Jurua river basin in the Brazilian Amazon, on Sept. 15, 2021.
Members of the Deni indigenous people work during the arapaima season in the Jurua River basin in Brazil’s Amazon on Sept. 15, 2021.

AP Photo/Fabiano Maisonnave

Gregorio Mirabal, the head of Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, who did not take part in the report, told the AP there had been already several U.N. studies stressing the importance of biodiversity and the threats posed by climate change, but they don’t bring about solutions.

The Indigenous leader spoke out about the growing problems facing the region, such as water contamination due to mercury mining illegally and oil spillages. People who oppose these practices can be subject to violence, as was the case of the recent murder in Venezuela of an Indigenous warrior living in a mining area.

“There is irrational exploitation of natural resources in the Amazon, but there is no social investment to improve the health, educational, cultural and food situation of the Indigenous peoples,” Mirabal said.

Representatives of the 139 member nations gathered in Bonn, Germany this week approved the report. There were many experts involved, from scientists to Indigenous knowledge holders. IPBES, an intergovernmental independent body, is not part the U.N. System but has the support of other bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme.

Associated Press receives support from a number of private foundations for its climate and environmental coverage. See more about AP’s climate initiative Here. All content is the sole responsibility of the AP


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