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Ongoing declines in world’s plants and animals ‘puts humans at risk’

Nature is at ‘the heart’ of human survival, culture and enjoyment of life, but continues to decline in every region of the world, scientists say.

Nature is in decline in every region of the world, putting human livelihoods in danger, a series of United Nations reports on biodiversity have warned.

Biodiversity, the variety of plants and animals found on Earth, and natural services such as clean water and healthy soils are being hit by exploitation, pollution, invasive species and the growing threat of climate change.

The declining trend in nature endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life for people worldwide, according to the reports which were written by more than 550 leading experts from more than 100 countries.

The four regional assessments paint a bleak picture of biodiversity and nature in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Europe and Central Asia – although they also pointed to some successes in reversing declines in wildlife.

Sir Robert Watson, the leading British scientist who chairs the intergovernmental body behind the reports, said: “Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people sound, to many people, academic and far removed from our daily lives.

“Nothing could be further from the truth – they are the bedrock of our food, clean water and energy.

We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature - or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead Sir Robert Watson

“They are at the heart not only of our survival, but of our cultures, identities and enjoyment of life.”

And he said: “The best available evidence, gathered by the world’s leading experts, points us now to a single conclusion: we must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature – or risk not only the future we want, but even the lives we currently lead.

“Fortunately, the evidence also shows that we know how to protect and partially restore our vital natural assets.”

The reports have found wide ranging current and future impacts on the natural world, including:

– More than two fifths (42%) of land-based animal and plant species in Europe and Central Asia have seen populations decline in the last decade;

– More than a quarter (26.6%) of marine fish species in the region have declining populations due to unsustainable fishing, habitat degradation, invasive species, pollution and climate change;

– A quarter of land in the EU is affected by soil erosion;

– More than 50% of African bird and mammal species could be lost to climate change by 2100;

– The Asia-Pacific region could be left with no commercially exploitable fish stocks by 2048 if current fishing practices continue;

– Up to 90% of corals could suffer severe damage by 2050 in the region even under conservation scenarios for climate change;

– More than 50% of the population of the Americas face problems with water security;

– More than 95% of North American tall grass prairie grasslands, 88% of South American Atlantic tropical forest and 17% of the Amazon rainforest have been lost to agriculture and other human activities.

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