Leaders have failed to deliver on a pledge to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, scientists say.
In a study published in Science (09 May 2010), researchers said governments had instead presided over alarming declines in biodiversity. The pledge to reduce the rate of loss was made in the 2002 Convention on Biological Diversity and the research is the first to gauge progress towards the goal.
"Our analysis shows that governments have failed to deliver on the commitments they made in 2002. Biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems," said Dr Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International, and the paper's lead author.
The research was based on more than 30 indicators, including changes in species' populations and risk of extinction, habitat extent and community composition. The researchers also included the Ecological Footprint, which measures the aggregate demand that human activities, through consumption of resources and emission of carbon dioxide, place on ecosystems and species.
They found no evidence of a significant reduction in the rate of decline of biodiversity and noted that the pressures facing biodiversity continued to increase. "A better understanding of the connections between the Ecological Footprint and biodiversity loss is fundamental to slowing, halting and reversing the ongoing declines in these ecosystems and in populations of wild species," said Dr Alessandro Galli, senior scientist for Global Footprint Network and co-author of the study.
Among the drivers of threats to biodiversity are human demands for food, water, energy and materials, Gallia said. The threats include climate change, pollution, habitat loss, as well as over-exploitation of resources and species. "Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30%, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20% and the coverage of living corals by 40%," said the United Nations Environment Programme's chief scientist Professor Joseph Alcamo.
"These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development."
Species classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as "threatened" increased by 2.1 percent in 2009, as 365 species were added to the organization's Red List of Threatened Species. Since 1996, a total of 47,677 species have been evaluated by the IUCN, and 17,291 of these are now considered threatened-a full 36 percent.
Currently, 30 percent of amphibians, 21 percent of mammals, and 12 percent of bird species are listed as threatened with extinction.