Effects on Ecosystems

Arguably the most serious consequence of the current environmental crisis from a human viewpoint is the loss of biodiversity because of its affects on human well-being and the way in which biodiversity is linked with crucial ecosystem services such as crop pollination and water purification.

According to IUCN, the World Conservation Union, the monetary value of goods and services provided by ecosystems and biodiversity is estimated to amount to US$33 trillion per year. The United States GDP for 2008 was only US$14.4 trillion. For the European Union in the same year it was $14.94 trillion. There is growing evidence to suggest however that biodiversity is increasingly under threat globally. For instance, species extinction rates at present are up to 1,000 times higher than long-term average extinction rates. Indeed, studies suggest that in the last 250 years or so, humans have begun to destroy other living species at a dramatic rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unmatched for approximately 65 million years.

Research now suggests that loss of biodiversity appears to affect ecosystems to the same extent as climate change, pollution and other major causes of environmental stress. Future species extinction has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as climate change and pollution. Consequently, there is growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions – as a result of habitat loss, over-harvesting and other human-caused environmental changes – could reduce nature's ability to produce goods and services like food, clean water and a stable climate.

Preventing mass extinction of species will require a rapid and intensified global effort to conserve already threatened species and to reduce pressures on their populations—notably by habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change. All of these are linked to human population size and growth, which increases consumption (particularly among the rich), and creates global economic inequalities.

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