Tag Archives: biodiversity

E. O. Wilson on preserving biodiversity

5 Mar

This week he publishes his 32nd book, Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, in which he argues that we must set aside half the earth a preserve for non-human life. Claudia Dreifus interviews him in The New York Times:

Q. Why publish this book now?

A. Because a lifetime of research has magnified my perception that we are in a crisis with reference to the living part of the environment.We now have enough measurements of extinction rates and the likely rate in the future to know that it is approaching a thousand times the baseline of what existed before humanity came along.

Reading your book, one senses you felt a great urgency to write it?

The urgency was twofold. First, it’s only been within the last decade that a full picture of the crisis in biodiversity has emerged. The second factor was my age. I’m 86. I had a mild stroke a couple of years ago. I thought, “Say this now or never.”

And what I say is that to save biodiversity, we need to set aside about half the earth’s surface as a natural reserve. I’m not suggesting we have one hemisphere for humans and the other for the rest of life. I’m talking about allocating up to one half of the surface of the land and the sea as a preserve for remaining flora and fauna.

In a rapidly developing world, where would such a reserve be?

Large parts of nature are still intact — the Amazon region, the Congo Basin, New Guinea. There are also patches of the industrialized world where nature could be restored and strung together to create corridors for wildlife. In the oceans, we need to stop fishing in the open sea and let life there recover. The open sea is fished down to 2 percent of what it once was. If we halted those fisheries, marine life would increase rapidly. The oceans are part of that 50 percent.

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Most Earth species ‘still unknown’, Brazil expert says

27 Feb

“We estimate that there are a total of around 13 million species (known and unknown) in the world,” says Thomas Lewinsohn, a renowned professor of ecology at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Sao Paulo state.

“Out of these, roughly 1.75 million species, including micro-organisms, plants, insects, bacteria and animals, have been described,” he told AFP in an interview.

And it would take 2000 years to describe them all.

via Most Earth species ‘still unknown’, Brazil expert says.

Preserving Biodiversity, Making our Food Supply Resilient

4 May

In the 19th century there were 7100 named varieties of apples in America. Now 6800 of those varieties are gone. That’s a terrible loss.

Not just for the principle of the thing – be kind of Mother Earth and all that – but because our survival depends on biodiversity. Now more so than ever because we’re entering an era of rapid and unpredictable climate change. No matter what we do to stem global warming, some amount of climate change is inevitable. If we act prudently in the next few decades we can slow the change, but we can’t stop it.

And that means the the world’s food plants are going to face new weather pattens. Is there enough biodiversity in our food crops to survive the coming changes?

Gary Fowler has been addressing the problem:

Tucked away under the snows of the Arctic Circle is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Sometimes called the doomsday vault, it’s nothing less than a backup of the world’s biological diversity in a horticultural world fast becoming homogenous in the wake of a flood of genetically identical GMOs.

For Cary Fowler, a self-described Tennessee farm boy, this vault is the fulfillment of a long fight against shortsighted governments, big business and potential disaster. Inside the seed vault, Fowler and his team work on preserving wheat, rice and hundreds of other crops that have nurtured humanity since our ancestors began tending crops — and ensuring that the world’s food supply has the diversity needed to stand against the omnipresent threats of disease, climate change and famine.

You can listen to his TED talk at this link (17 minutes). Here’s his organization, the Global Crop Diversity Trust.