Brussels, 20 May 2005
A report compiled using contributions from over 1,300 scientists from more than 90 countries warns that biodiversity is being lost at such a speed that it now constitutes a major threat to humankind.
The latest in a series of reports from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), 'Ecosystems and human wellbeing: the biodiversity synthesis report' states that global fish stocks have declined by 90 per cent since the start of industrial fishing. In addition, one third of all amphibians, over a fifth of mammals and a quarter of the world's coniferous trees are threatened with extinction, according to the report.
Changes in biodiversity as a result of human activities were more rapid in the last 50 years than at any time in human history, the report adds.
'The new MA report underlines that rather than exercising the brake, the world continues to choose the accelerator putting us all on a collision course towards a grim destiny,' responded Klaus Topefer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
'If these wetlands, forests, rivers and coral reefs were factories, art galleries, universities and the like, it would be considered gross vandalism or arson to damage them in the way we do. Yet our recklessness goes further than this,' Mr Topefer added.
The loss of these environments could also create economic difficulties for some populations, according to the report. It points out that, for example, an intact hectare of mangroves in a country such as Thailand is worth more than USD 1,000 (792 euro). Converted into land for intensive farming, the value drops to an estimated USD 200 (158 euro) per hectare.
However, according to the director of the MA, Walter Reid, the messages in the latest report are not all discouraging. The report 'shows that management tools, policies and technologies do exist to dramatically slow this loss,' he said.