Biodiversity loss impacts ecosystems as much as climate change

By Tierney Smith

Loss of biodiversity could impact ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other environmental stresses, according to new research.

The study, published in Nature, aims to directly compare the impacts of biological diversity loss, with those of other human-caused environmental changes including climate change.

And the results, according to the researchers, highlight the need for stronger local, national and international efforts to protect biodiversity.

The researchers say the biggest challenge will be predicting the impacts of multiple environmental challenges (© Axel-D/Creative Commons)

The research – which combined data from 192 peer-reviewed studies to compare how environment factors affect plant growth and decomposition of dead plants – found that where local species falls within a lower range of projections (1 to 20% loss of species) there will be little impact on plant growth.

In this case changes in species will rank low compared to other impacts such as climate change.

Where species fall within intermediate projections (21-40%) however, species loss could reduce plant growth by 5-10%.

This change, according to the researchers, will be comparable to those witnessed with increasing ultraviolet radiation and a warming climate.

And where higher levels of extinction (41-60%) were predicted, the impacts of species loss ranked alongside other changes including ozone pollution, acid deposition on forests and nutrient pollution.

The researchers warned this loss of biodiversity could reduce nature’s ability to provide goods and services, including food, clean water and a stable climate.

They said the biggest challenge for researchers now would be to predict the impacts of these combined challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution on our natural environments.

See the full report here.

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