Man is poised to drive 1,700 bird and animal species towards extinction within the next 50 years, warns a new study.
As humans continue to expand our use of land around the globe, we leave other species little ground to stand on.
Researchers have forecast that, by the year 2070, increased human land-use is expected to put 1,700 species of amphibians, birds, and mammals at greater extinction risk by shrinking their natural habitats.
The study by ecologists at Yale University in the United States, was published by the journal Nature Climate Change.
They combined information on the current geographic distributions of around 19,400 species worldwide with changes to the land cover projected under four different trajectories for the world scientists have agreed on as likely.
The research team said that the potential paths represent “reasonable expectations” about future developments in global society, demographics, and economics.
Study co-author Yale Professor Walter Jetz said: “Our findings link these plausible futures with their implications for biodiversity.
“Our analyses allow us to track how political and economic decisions – through their associated changes to the global land cover – are expected to cause habitat range declines in species worldwide.”
The study shows that under a ‘middle-of-the-road’ scenario of moderate changes in human land-use about 1,700 species will likely experience marked increases in their extinction risk over the next 50 years.
The findings suggest that they will lose roughly 30 per cent to 50 per cent of their present habitat ranges by 2070.
The species of concern include 886 species of amphibians, 436 species of birds, and 376 species of mammals – all of which are predicted to have a high increase in their risk of extinction.
Among them are species whose fates will be particularly dire, such as the Lombok cross frog in Indonesia, the Nile lechwe in South Sudan, the pale-browed treehunter in Brazil and the curve-billed reedhaunter found in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
All of them are predicted to lose around half of their present day geographic range in the next five decades.
The projections and all other analysed species can be examined at the ‘Map of Life’ website.
Study co-author Dr Ryan Powers, a former postdoctoral fellow in the Jetz Lab at Yale, said: “The integration of our analyses with the Map of Life can support anyone keen to assess how species may suffer under specific future land-use scenarios and help prevent or mitigate these effects.”
Species living in Central and East Africa, Central America, South America, and South East Asia will suffer the greatest habitat loss and increased extinction risk, according to the study.
But Prof Jetz cautioned the global public against assuming that the losses are only the problem of the countries within whose borders they occur.
He added: “Losses in species populations can irreversibly hamper the functioning of ecosystems and human quality of life.
“While biodiversity erosion in far-away parts of the planet may not seem to affect us directly, its consequences for human livelihood can reverberate globally.
“It is also often the far-away demand that drives these losses – think tropical hardwoods, palm oil, or soybeans – thus making us all co-responsible.”
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