. Determine the Losses of Biodiversity
Loss of Biodiversity
1. The biological wealth of our planet has been declining rapidly and the accusing finger is clearly pointing to human activities.
2. The colonisation of tropical Pacific Islands by humans is said to have led to the extinction of more than 2,000 species of native birds.
3. The IUCN Red List (2004) documents the extinction of 784 species (including 338 vertebrates, 359 invertebrates and 87 plants) in the last 500 years.
4. Some examples of recent extinctions include the dodo (Mauritius), quagga (Africa), thylacine (Australia), Steller’s Sea Cow (Russia) and three subspecies (Bali, Javan, Caspian) of tiger. The last twenty years alone have witnessed the disappearance of 27 species.
5. Careful analysis of records shows that extinctions across taxa are not random; some groups like amphibians appear to be more vulnerable to extinction. Adding to the grim scenario of extinctions is the fact that more than 15,500 species world-wide are facing the threat of extinction. Presently, 12 per cent of all bird species, 23 per cent of all mammal species, 32 per cent of all amphibian species and 31per cent of all gymnosperm species in the world face the threat of extinction.
6. From a study of the history of life on earth through fossil records, it is learned that large-scale loss of species like the one we are currently witnessing have also happened earlier, even before humans appeared on the scene. During the long period (> 3 billion years) since the origin and diversification of life on earth there were five episodes of mass extinction of species.
7. ‘Sixth Extinction’ presently in progress different from the previous episodes? The difference is in the rates; the current species extinction rates are estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times faster than in the pre-human times and our activities are responsible for the faster rates. Ecologists warn that if the present trends continue, nearly half of all the species on earth might be wiped out within the next 100 years.
8. In general, loss of biodiversity in a region may lead to (a) decline in plant production, (b) lowered resistance to environmental perturbations such as drought and (c) increased variability in certain ecosystem processes such as plant productivity, water use, and pest and disease cycles.