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World set to lose fifth of remaining natural habitat

World set to lose fifth of remaining natural habitat thumbnail
  • Nearly 20 million square kilometres of habitat could be lost by 2050
  • Urbanisation, agriculture, mining and energy production to blame
  • The effects will be particularly dire in Africa and South America


The world could lose a fifth of its remaining natural habitat by 2050 through population growth if current trends in land use continue unabated, a study warns.

The effects of population growth on land use will be particularly dire in Africa and South America because of increases in agriculture, mining and urban sprawl, according to an analysis published this month (7 October) in PLOS One.

The world’s population is predicted to soar to 9.6 billion by mid-century, increasing demand for resources, the study says. “This is an issue that is global in nature and potentially rivals other global conservation issues like climate change,” says Joe Kiesecker, an ecologist at US charity the Nature Conservancy and one of the study authors.

Kiesecker and his colleagues identified around 76 per cent of land on Earth, discounting Antarctica, as natural habitat. They found that nearly 20 million square kilometres of these habitats — 20 per cent of what remains across the planet — would be swallowed up under current predictions of population and economic growth.

The team identified five factors as triggering land use change are set to expand rapidly with population growth and development: urbanisation, agriculture, mining, fossil fuel extraction and renewable energy. Urban areas are expected to nearly double in size by 2030, while land use for agriculture will grow by a third and land use for mining will rise by 60 per cent by 2050, the study says.

Africa alone will lose an area of natural habitat larger than Australia between now and 2050, the researchers warn.

Habitat loss small.jpg
Global natural lands at high risk to future development. Click here to enlarge. Credit: PLoS ONE

Part of the problem is a lack of designated conservation zones, the paper says. Only five per cent of natural environments threatened by development have strict legal protection — a figure that must increase to reduce the harm of economic development, the researchers say.

But Kiesecker stresses that the study’s aim is not to be “anti-development”.

Rather, the team wants to identify areas where conservation can work in harmony with development goals. “But it will take the global political will of lending agencies and governments to start to really think about how they want to shape their landscapes,” he says.

However, Souleymane Konate, an ecologist at the University of Nangui Abrogoua in Côte d’Ivoire, says tackling habitat loss from the top down is the wrong approach. He says that conservation must take place at the community level and will only succeed if people understand the value of protecting biodiversity for their long-term wellbeing.

“When people are hungry, they do not care if an area is protected,” he says. “But if you allow people to benefit from ecosystem services then they will be the first to protect these areas.”

Sci Dev Net

15 Comments on "World set to lose fifth of remaining natural habitat"

  1. ghung on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 1:01 pm 

    “Urbanisation, agriculture, mining and energy production to blame…

    …“This is an issue that is global in nature and potentially rivals other global conservation issues like climate change,”

    Rival? In addition to? This systemic confluence of population-in-overshoot, resource depletion, ongoing abuse of ecosystems, and overall climate change won’t be linear; it’s a synergistic process where each of these factors will create feedbacks in all others, accelerating and amplifying the effects on everything that relies on things-as-they-are to survive. None of these issues can be compartmentalised on a small planet.

    “Nonlinear systems-

    The behaviour of non-linear systems is not subject to the principle of superposition while that of linear systems is subject to superposition. Thus, a complex nonlinear system is one whose behaviour cannot be expressed as a sum of the behaviour of its parts (or of their multiples).[5]”

    Any complex adaptive sub-systems will be overwhelmed as their foundational matrices become in-viable:

    “Complex adaptive systems (CAS) are special cases of complex systems. They are complex in that they are diverse and made up of multiple interconnected elements and adaptive in that they have the capacity to change and learn from experience. Examples of complex adaptive systems include the stock market, social insect and ant colonies, the biosphere and the ecosystem, the brain and the immune system, the cell and the developing embryo, manufacturing businesses and any human social group-based endeavor in a cultural and social system such as political parties or communities. This includes some large-scale online systems, such as collaborative tagging or social bookmarking systems.….

    … imparting positive feedback stress to other complex adaptive systems, AKA: cascading failures.

    Hold on to your butts. It’s going to be a wild ride.

  2. Dredd on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 1:26 pm 

    Reminds me of the David Gray song Nightblindness.

    We will run out of civilization before we run out of habitat (The Extinction of Manzanillo).

  3. ghung on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 1:35 pm 

    Looks to be going north of Manzanillo and that La Manzanilla, sandwiched between the mountains and coast, is going to get smashed along with San Patricio, both in tight bays.,-104.7426278,12.25z

  4. Davy on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 2:07 pm 

    This is goin to be a big kahuna G-man. 200 mph winds with a large hurricane force wind cone coverage. Nothing in its way along with nice warm ocean. Then it will head up to Texas and dump 9-12 inches of rain. Ridem cowboy!

  5. apneaman on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 2:26 pm 

    Patricia’s Epic Bombification — Monster El Nino + Climate Change Serves Up Strongest Western Hemisphere Hurricane Ever

    “They call it bombification for a reason. Pressures drop rapidly, wind speeds rage to epic force, and the storm presents a tell-tale angry red signature in the infrared satellite shot. During recent years, bombification has become an all-too-common word associated with ocean storms that are now feeding on unprecedented amounts of heat, moisture, and temperature differentials. Some have even claimed that Hansen’s terrifying ‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ are starting to arrive early. But what happened with Patricia was even outside the new abnormal bombification ‘norm.’

    Though weather models did forecast a rapid strengthening for Patricia, the kind of strengthening we ended up with was something both freakish and extraordinary. In a 36 hour period pressures plunged from a mild 990s mb storm to a system featuring an 880 mb minimum central pressure. This raging period of ocean-shattering intensification propelled Patricia to a dubious status of most intense storm ever recorded for the Western Hemisphere over centuries of barometric readings. Winds also rapidly strengthened — roaring up from 40 miles per hour to a current top intensity of 200 miles per hour. That’s 160 mph of wind intensification in a little more than 36 hours.

    At current intensity, the storm is now comparable to the monster western Pacific Storms — Haiyan (195 mph and about 890 mb) and Tip (195 mph and 870 mb) — otherwise known as the strongest storms ever recorded. And all this fury now aimed at a well-populated swath from the Pacific Coast of Mexico through to the Gulf Coast of the United States.

    An Unimaginably Dangerous Storm Following a Ridiculously Dangerous Path

    The potential for tragedy in this situation cannot be understated. A similar strength Hurricane Haiyan — also fueled by abnormally hot waters made hotter by human-forced warming — rendered tens of thousands homeless even as it resulted in the horrible loss of 6,000 souls.”


  6. makati1 on Fri, 23rd Oct 2015 8:13 pm 

    20,000,000 sq.kilometers = Russia and India’s land area.

    And that hurricane headed for Mexico is going to be a bad one. If you see a picture of the Pacific water temps, you can see why it is so strong. Could you see that storm slamming into LA or San Francisco? They need the water, but…

  7. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:17 am 

    “This systemic confluence of population-in-overshoot, resource depletion, ongoing abuse of ecosystems, and overall climate change won’t be linear

    Strange that, how difficult that it appears to be for the average monkey to understand.

  8. apneaman on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 1:56 am 

    Stop telling the public we’re not doomed, says climate change scientist

    “The author, Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University, says scientists shouldn’t shape their findings optimistically, “however politically uncomfortable the conclusions”. If anything, he argues, researchers are censoring themselves, worrying too much about the opinions of others or whether they’ll be liked or not after publishing their studies.”

  9. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 2:10 am 

    “The author, Professor Kevin Anderson of Manchester University, says scientists shouldn’t shape their findings optimistically, “however politically uncomfortable the conclusions”. If anything, he argues, researchers are censoring themselves, worrying too much about the opinions of others or whether they’ll be liked or not after publishing their studies.”

    Sorry Kev, due to budget constraints and downsizing, your position has been found to be redundant. Thanks so much for your decades of dedicated hard work. Security will accompany you from the building.

  10. onlooker on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 2:12 am 

    Yes, this has been discussed on this site. Many of us agree that scientists are widely censored and thus reluctant to come out with full or entirely truthful disclosure. Also, the computer models have underestimated consistently the celerity and intensity of GW effects.

  11. apneaman on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 2:29 am 


    Bueller? Anyone?

    “I have resisted characterizing humans as “stupid” on this blog because it’s a catch-all term that doesn’t tell us anything profound about our favorite subject (Homo sapiens). But now, Balazs Aczel, a professor at the Institute of Psychology at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, has teased out what people generally mean when they call human behavior “stupid”.

    And it turns out that humans generally are indeed stupid in the most common meanings of the term. My source is How to act less stupid, according to psychologists (Washington Post Wonkblog, October 19. 2015).

    What are those meanings? It boils down to three things:

    1. “confident ignorance” — when a person’s self-perceived ability to do something far outweighs that person’s actually ability to do it, and it’s associated with the highest level of stupidity.

    This is a no-brainer. Think of all the things humans believe they can do that they can’t do. Humans want to believe they can run an efficient and ultimately equitable economy, but experience tells us they can do neither. Humans think they can make democracy work, but experience tells us otherwise. Others think human ingenuity, expressed as technological cleverness, will solve any environmental problems which may turn up. There’s little evidence to support that dubious proposition. These examples can be enumerated ad nauseam. Delusional optimism! Confident ignorance!

    2. “can’t help himself” — when someone does something because they have, on some level, lost their ability to do otherwise. Aczel calls this “lack of control” and characterizes it as the result of “obsessive, compulsive, or addictive behavior.”

    Another no-brainer. Perpetual growth in populations and economies is a case in point. And don’t try to tell these humans that endless growth isn’t a good idea, because they’re not listening. And why? Can’t help themselves! Lack of control! Again, I could enumerate examples ad nauseam. No Free Will!

    3. “absentmindedness — lack of practicality” — an either/or scenario, in which someone does something that’s clearly irrational, but for a reason that could be one of two things: they either weren’t paying attention or simply weren’t aware of something.

    Humans? Not paying attention? Unaware? Like with global warming? The sixth extinction? The general destruction of terrestrial and marine ecosystems? Their own deep behavoural flaws? I’ve called this existential threat filtering, although I think the intended meaning here is all-purpose cluelessness.

    Bueller? Anyone?”

  12. GregT on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 2:48 am 

    It’s become so fucking sad Apnea, that all I can do anymore is laugh.

  13. apneaman on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 3:22 am 

    I think that’s the best way to go Greg. At least for people like us. Can’t go back. I guess one could go full retard on the religion if they were a believer, but one cannot truly un-know what they know, so that would be even more pretending. No my friend, we are an absurd species and the absurdist philosophy is the only viable position left – you can’t take apes too seriously. You can still prep and the rest, but laughing ones ass off while mocking the retards is the only way to stay sane for the rest of ones allotted time. That’s how I’m rolling;)

  14. peakyeast on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 6:10 am 

    @ape: I think Jon Stewart put it most aptly IMO one of his best contributions: “The neverending quest for energy”..

    Quoted from memory “We redefined success and still failed”

    I feel this is not only a fitting description on the energy subject, but actually a motto for our entire civilisation and ledership especially.

  15. Kenz300 on Sat, 24th Oct 2015 8:57 am 

    Climate Change, declining fish stocks, droughts, floods, pollution, water and food shortages all stem from the worlds worst environmental problem……. OVER POPULATION.

    Yet the world adds 80 million more mouths to feed, clothe, house and provide energy and water for every year… this is unsustainable…

    Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches | World news | The Guardian

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