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Earth is on the verge of a large-scale extinction: it has already begun and is worse than scientists thought

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Humans have already destroyed 70% of natural landscapes

Humanity's attempts to stop the mass extinction that scientists have long warned about may not succeed. Recent data indicate that people are too late with their decision.

As Science Alert reminds us, in December 2022, the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity concluded a "Pact for Peace with Nature". But it seems that the document was drawn up without taking into account the forecast of future losses. So far, data on birds and mammals show that there is a huge time lag between environmental change and its impact on animal populations. It is up to 45 years, depending on the species and the causes of the changes.

"There is widespread recognition that time is running out for the comprehensive, ambitious action needed to halt biodiversity loss by 2050. This work shows that there is even less time than thought," wrote the study's authors, Richard Cornford, a zoologist at the British Museum of Natural History, and his colleagues.

The researchers have shown that past events involving habitat loss and climate change explain current trends in their populations better than recent impacts. Scientists argue that we will not see the results of the pact for at least a decade. Until then, we will witness the detrimental effects of past land use and climate change on biodiversity.

The biologists also reminded us that larger species take longer to catch up with the lag. And smaller ones react quite quickly. Thus, we will see today's impact on smaller bird and mammal populations in about ten years. In the case of larger animals, the effects will become apparent later. The assessment shows that this will last at least until 2050. "Therefore, even radical efforts to restore the land may not be able to stop the decline in populations by 2030," the researchers conclude.

It is not yet fully understood how these lags will affect different levels of the food chain and different regions. Cornford and his colleagues call for an urgent study of this issue.

At the moment, the rate of extinction is tens to thousands of times higher than predicted. Humans have already changed up to 70% of landscapes, making them less suitable for animals. This also includes the oceans. "Even if 30% of land is protected by 2030, additional mitigation measures will be needed to adequately protect biodiversity and nature's contribution to human life," the team of British researchers warns.

On the positive side, the scientists noted that active management of protected areas reduces threats from direct use of wildlife, such as hunting. And this trend can be maintained. Moreover, efforts to manage and restore the environment also have direct benefits for human health, as diseases are less likely to spread in more sustainable systems.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL talked about the "killer" that has already caused two mass extinctions on Earth and is still affecting our planet.

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