Biodiversity Loss and Human Extinction

Global Extinction Emergency

Present day human impacts are causing global extinctions comparable in number to the dinosaur extinction of 65 million years ago. Research reports across all plant and animal groups are documenting falling numbers, and the losses are speeding up.

The loss of species and ecosystems is at least as dangerous as climate change. People cause both as we use and harvest soils, plants, animals, and fossil fuels. Soon we will begin to reach the limits of nature’s reserves. As marine fisheries and farming regions lose their productivity, there will be moments when the failure of one region to meet the needs of people will cause demands to shift to other regions. Then, like falling dominos, the cascading failure of ecosystems will force the same desperate international migrations that have already begun due to climate change. The great danger is that once it begins, the cascade of extinction and ecosystem failure will ripple around the world and will be unstoppable.

Here’s a story about the status of international efforts to halt biodiversity loss. As you can see, the extinction emergency is not being treated as an emergency. We need another Greta Thunberg to arise and lead the protest against extinction. And we need it now.

Deforestation in Indonesian to make way for a palm oil concession. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace

“The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief.” —The Guardian.

Helping Wildlife Survive the Sixth Mass Extinction

Preserving Critical Habitats Will Help More Wildlife Survive

This morning, an article by Andrew Suggitt (How wildlife will keep cool. . . .) made me think again about refugia. Earlier, I concluded that unlike ice ages, global warming would leave no refugia in which pockets of wildlife would survive. I was picturing a pervasive atmospheric impact instead of a discontinuous physical impact by tongues of glacial ice. I was wrong. The best habitats for wildlife, the ones along streams, in deep shaded canyons, and those in areas of diverse topography will sustain more wildlife as climate changes. Preserving those habitats is an essential goal for wildlife conservation.

Rick Turley. Approaching Wind River Canyon.

Unfortunately, the best habitats for wildlife are the most desirable for humans. Worldwide, farming and home construction have destroyed the richest valley-floor habitats, and roads have filled the floors of canyons and narrow valleys. In the arid region where I live, livestock graze along rare desert streams and around lakes and marshes.

Preserving critical habitats is not a new idea. Conservation organizations have programs that identify and urge protection of important habitats. The National Audubon Society, for instance, has initiated the Climate Strongholds program that focuses on the needs of individual species. The program has strong citizen-scientist opportunities for participation. Read about it here.

Most wildlife species will be lost over the next few decades and centuries, but it will be possible to prevent some of the losses through preservation of critical habitats. As changing weather patterns force governments to respond to the climate emergency, nature conservation advocates must work hard to explain the critical role nature plays in human survival and to convince governments to protect the best wildlife habitats.

Half for Nature

Current climate projections suggest that global carrying capacity will drastically decline over the next few centuries. Human civilization as we know and imagine it now will not survive. Once the Earth’s energy budget stabilizes, people can begin to rebuild cities and networks and evolution can begin to rebuild natural plant and animal diversity. For the immediate future of 300 – 400 years, we must advocate for the “Best” for nature. Saving Half for Nature will be important as rebuilding begins.

I hope that saving the “Best” is a practical goal. Instead of plants and animals, there may be masses of people jammed into cool mountain canyons and camping along streams. Impacts of food and fuel gathering could block wildlife and make the mass extinction worse.

The Time is Growing Short

GR:  An article from June, 2016 should be on everyone’s mind now. Here’s my discussion followed by a link to the article.

A group of scientists analyzed the sources of CO2 and the dynamic relationship between the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature to devise a global carbon budget they could use to assess the effect of timing of changes in CO2 emissions. The analysis enabled them to calculate the changes we must make to preserve a livable climate. You’ll have to read the article to see the individual sources of CO2 that must be adjusted. I wanted to mention the timing for the budget. The analysis shows that if CO2 emissions begin to fall immediately and reach zero in 30 years, we will remain within the global warming limits set by the Paris treaty. After the flat emissions of 2014, 2015, and 2016, the authors believed that the fall in emissions was ready to begin. This is good, because their budget shows that if we wait to 2020 to start tapering off CO2 production, we only get 20 years to reach zero emissions. If we wait to 2025, we get less than 10 years to reach zero. Transforming our energy use that quickly would be impossible.

SO, how are we doing. Six months after the analysis was published, we find that 2017 emissions have gone up, not down. Lot’s of positive changes have begun, but we have to wait to see what happens in 2018. If we begin to taper off CO2 emissions by 2020, we will have 20 years to reach zero emissions. I suggest you take a look at the six milestones the authors believe must be reached by 2020. Then you can monitor the world’s progress toward painful climate change (the Paris treaty) or disastrous climate change (with too many storms, fires, heat waves, and rising seas).

Climate change is just one of the approaching disasters. Human population and its impact is growing, wildlife species are going extinct at incredible rates, freshwater supplies are dropping, and toxic wastes are building up. If we can’t do more than take our CO2 emissions to zero over the next 20-30 years, most of the diversity and beauty of life on Earth will disappear.

Christiana Figueres and colleagues set out a six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020.

Behind New Zealand’s wild plan to purge all pests

Invasive Species

GR:  After 1500 AD, sailing ships and then later on, motor-powered ships began transporting and introducing plant and animal species all over the globe. Freed from the predators and diseases of their homes, some of the introduced species became invasive–that is, they began spreading, replacing native species, and decreasing ecosystem stability and productive. This is not news, of course, biologists have long been aware of the devastation caused by invasive species.

Eradicating invasive species is very expensive and very difficult. National resolve and full public support are required. Eradication is something that we humans, who are responsible for spreading the invasive species, should be about everywhere.

However, it is essential to place greater focus preventing the initial introduction of non-native species. Prevention is cheaper and kinder than eradication. And again, prevention is not a new idea. Natural resource managers have known how to prevent invasions for the past century. In many instances, they just don’t take the necessary steps. Here are some articles on invasive plants.

New Zealand has one of the worst invasive plant and animal problems in the world. The article below describes an ambitious and necessary plan to do something about it.

New Zealand Eradication Plan

New Zealand has three invasive species of rat. The Pacific rat, or kiore (Rattus exulans), was introduced from Polynesia in about the twelfth century; the ship rat (Rattus rattus) arrived in the late 1700s; and the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) became established in the 1860s. All three prey on native birds, insects and lizards, and have been blamed for the decline or extinction of a variety of species.

“Razza the rat nearly ended James Russell’s scientific career. Twelve years ago, as an ecology graduate student, Russell was releasing radio-collared rats on to small islands off the coast of New Zealand to study how the creatures take hold and become invasive. Despite his sworn assurances that released animals would be well monitored and quickly removed, one rat, Razza, evaded capture and swam to a nearby island.

“For 18 weeks, Russell hunted the animal. Frustrated and embarrassed, he fretted about how the disaster would affect his PhD. “I felt rather morose about the prospects for my dissertation,” he says.

“Although there was a lot of literature on controlling large rat populations, little had been written about tracking and killing a single rodent, which turns out to be rather important in efforts to completely eradicate a species. “It demonstrated how hard it is to catch that very first rat as it arrives on an island — or, conversely, the very last rat that you’re trying to get off,” says Russell, now at the University of Auckland.

Brushtail possums are among the numerous invasive pests regularly culled in New Zealand.

“Razza’s escape became the subject of a paper in Nature1 as well as a popular children’s book. And now, with more than a decade of successful pest-eradication projects behind him, Russell is taking on a much bigger challenge. He is coordinating research and development for a programme that the government announced last July to eliminate all invasive vertebrate predators — rats, brushtail possums, stoats and more — from New Zealand by 2050 to protect the country’s rare endemic species.” –Brian Owens (Continue reading:  Behind New Zealand’s wild plan to purge all pests : Nature News & Comment)

Living Planet Report 2016

GR:  The Living Planet Index, which measures abundance levels of 14,152 monitored populations of 3,706 vertebrate species, continues to show a downward trend. On average, monitored species declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012.  The report ties the decline to humans and human population growth.  Authors of the report struggle to find optimism to share, but they do not directly deal with population. Unless we begin to cut our population, the continuing loss of wildlife is inevitable.

“The Living Planet Report documents the state of the planet—including biodiversity, ecosystems, and demand on natural resources—and what it means for humans and wildlife. Published by WWF every two years, the report brings together a variety of research to provide a comprehensive view of the health of the earth.

“What’s the status of some animal populations?

“Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. And we’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.

“- 38 % The terrestrial LPI shows that populations have declined by thirty-eight percent overall between 1970 and 2012.

“- 81 % The freshwater LPI shows that on average the abundance of populations monitored in the freshwater system has declined by eighty-one percent between 1970 and 2012.

“- 36 % The marine LPI shows a thirty-six percent overall decline between 1970 and 2012.

“This loss of wildlife is startling, and people are at risk, too. Without action, the Earth will become much less hospitable for all of us. We must consider our impact on nature as we make development, economic, business, and lifestyle choices. A shared understanding of the link between humanity and nature is essential to making profound changes that will allow all life to thrive for generations to come.” — Living Planet Report 2016 | Pages | WWF

Biodiversity Day – May 22

A Day for Biodiversity

Biodiversity Day - 2016The United Nations has declared that May 22 is Biodiversity Day.  The goal this year is to publicize biodiversity.  After studying the text of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, I believe that the UN is doing little or nothing for biodiversity.  I have studied plants and animals for many years.  What I’ve seen, and what others report, is that all of nature is in steep decline.  Humans are the cause.  I fear that people might be led to believe that the United Nations is taking effective action to protect biodiversity.  It is not.

The theme of the UN Convention on Biodiversity is sustainable development.  It’s text has lofty goals with vague strategies for their attainment.  The text makes clear the Convention’s desire for acceptance by even the most growth oriented government.  Each Article begins with phrases such as:  “Each Contracting Party shall, in accordance with its particular conditions and capabilities. . . .” and this:  “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate. . . .”  Since human desires are the conditions that define what is appropriate, the phrases prohibit no “contractor” from full-bore growth and development if they say that these are needed to provide jobs and improved standards of living.

This is the UN’s definition of the Convention:

Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live (United Nations).

Biodiversity is definitely not about the needs of only one species.  It is a general term that gives equal importance to all species.  By placing humans ahead of all other species, the Convention’s definition replaces biological validity with the human bias that is destroying the Earth.

This year’s meeting focus is on promoting biodiversity. The meetings never do much more than report on small achievements.  They serve as an opportunity to search for funding for their development-friendly activities and they let governments reward their environmental managers with a two-week vacation in an international resort.

Homo sapiens’ unrelenting rape of the Earth and the rapid decline of biodiversity is taking us toward the greatest mass extinction of all time.  No one has found an effective means to stop this.  In 1992, the United Nations decided to formalize their support for continued devastation by sugar-coating human impacts with the term “sustainable.” A genuine Biodiversity Day would focus on curtailing human:

  • Population growth
  • Habitat destruction
  • Material aspirations

Over and over, our leading biologists call for emergency responses to our impacts on the Earth.  This blog has more than a thousand well-reasoned warnings and suggestions related to biodiversity.  However, biodiversity decline continues.  What do we do?  Even as our impacts grow beyond the hope of remediation, our environmental managers lay by the pool sipping rum punch, eying the pretty young servers, and discussing funding proposals and plans for more meetings.

What can we do for biodiversity?

I intend to look for ways to oppose development, call for population control, live a simpler life, and learn more about plants and animals.

Eye on the Ball– #ClimateChange, #Biodiversity, #NatureConservation, & #SarahPalin

Nature Conservation

GarryRogersThe excellent article introduced below is about nature conservation from the human viewpoint.  The argument is that the current mass extinction of wild plants and animals has harmful consequences for the future of the human species.  It most certainly has, but the author’s desire to inform his audience misses its target because it gives a biased view of the problem. The article does not consider the rights of other species. This “homocentric” view of nature assumes that disappearance of other creatures is only important if it endangers humans.

Aldo Leopold and other conservationists realized that this viewpoint is unsustainable. Unless we accept the equality of all Earth’s species, including our own, our conservation efforts will always fail.  With its runaway enthusiasm for untested proposals, our species will take chances with the lives of other species. Experiments aimed only at benefiting our species, experiments that do not respect the rights of other species, experiments that will sometimes have unforeseen consequences, will gradually nibble away at nature until our ecosystems collapse and wash into the sea (carrying us with it).

Unless we begin to respect the rights of all species, we will exert constant damage on the Earth and ourselves.


Our real Sarah Palin nightmare: We debate sideshows and phony problems — while this very real threat looms undiscussed

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, right, endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Iowa State University, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, right, endorses Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a rally at the Iowa State University, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“It’s an amazing fact that the contemporary world is marked by a growing number of problems that are genuinely global in scope. Some of these problems even have existential implications for the survival of human civilization — yet instead we spend too much time discussing smaller threats, including North Korea, ISIS, Oregon militias and even Sarah Palin. One such problem is anthropogenic climate change — a catastrophe whose effects are anticipated to be “severe,” “pervasive” and “irreversible.”

“But climate change isn’t the only problem of this sort. In fact, for many who spend their lives studying environmental issues, it can be frustrating to see climate change — a highly contentious issue among non-experts, despite a scientific consensus about its reality and causes — dominate the public discussion. The fact is that biodiversity loss constitutes an equally worrisome (albeit related) threat to the future of humanity.

“Consider some cold hard facts. According to the 3rd Global Biodiversity Report (GBO-3), the total population of vertebrates — a broad category that includes mammals, birds, reptiles, sharks, rays and amphibians — living within the tropics declined by a shocking 59% from 1970 to 2006. Take a moment to let this sink in. In only 36 years, more than half of the vertebrate population between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer disappeared.”— Read More: , Salon.





Meat-eaters are speeding worldwide species extinction

“To find out [how meat consumption impacted biodiversity], Brian Machovina and his colleagues looked at studies that identified the world’s biodiversity hotspots—those areas that contain the highest percentage of endemic plant and animal species. Most are located in tropical nations. Then, the researchers picked out countries that are most likely to expand their industrial livestock operations, and determined where and how much land will be lost to grazing and growing crops to feed livestock. Using data from the Food and Agriculture Organization and other studies about the production of cattle, pigs, and chickens in these countries from 1985 to 2013 and the amount of land the livestock required, they extrapolated the likely future expansion of agricultural lands. Finally, they created maps of overlap.

“Many of the places expected to see the greatest shift in land use from forest to livestock are in 15 “megadiverse” countries, which harbor the largest number of species, Machovina says. “By 2050, given current trends, these countries will likely increase the lands used for livestock production by 30% to 50%”—some 3,000,000 square kilometers—the researchers estimate.

“The habitat loss is so great that it will cause more extinctions than any other factor, the study notes, particularly when coupled with other deleterious effects of livestock production, including climate change and pollution. “These changes will have major, negative impacts on biodiversity,” Machovina says. “Many, many species will be lost.”  Sourced through from:

GR:  Eventually all human “eaters” speed extinction.  Soybeans, wheat, and cabbages all require land to grow.  As the number of hungry humans grows, the amount of farmed land will grow.  If the coming massive storms do not reverse our growth, the loss of nature will.

Wildlife groups say 41 tigers have died in India in seven months

Conservationists say India is not doing enough to protect tigers.  Six months after India boasted that its tiger population was growing fast, conservationists on Wednesday said 41 big…    Sourced through from:

GR:  The prospects for wild tigers in India are not good.  The human population is the only one that is growing.  India was once the nation that was most concerned with curbing human population growth.  But during the period from 1960 to today, the country’s population grew from 400 million to over one billion.  What happened?  Were the programs ineffective, or did they not receive enough support?

Extinction Resources: Information, Opinion, Ideas, & Questions

Extinction Information Resources


Passenger Pigeon

Stopping human-caused extinction of Earth’s plant and animal species is the greatest challenge of our time. This post provides access to the latest articles on extinction. The first item (Ceballos et al. 2015) is the latest detailed report on what we know and how we acquired the information.

 Ceballos, Gerardo, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle, and Todd M. Palmer. 19 June 2015. Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction. Science Advances Vol. 1, no. 5 (e1400253, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400253). Corresponding author. E-mail:

More than a thousand recent articles are linked to my blog (

Causes of Extinction

My blog covers the things that people do to cause extinctions and reduce biodiversity. These deeds of ours are woven into individual and our collective habits and beliefs. Stopping them will alter our society and our culture. It will be difficult. Our population must be reduced, our food choices must change, and our resource harvest must decline. Nothing less will succeed. Search the blog using the following terms for recent reports:  Burning, Coal, Construction, Deforestation, Desertification, Energy, Farming, Fishing, Fracking, Grazing, Hunting, Invasive Species, Logging, Mining, Oil, Pesticides, Pet Trade, Pollution, Population, Roads, and Soil.

Climate change will become the major cause of extinction.  Here’s its search link on my blog:  Climate Change.

For more reading, my Internet newsletters include a wider variety of articles than my blog.