Some time later this century, the world's need for protected habitat will be more acute even than today.
The greatest danger to the wild vertebrates that roam the planet will not be the intruding humans, their livestock and their pesticides and herbicides. It will be human-induced global warming and climate change.
The conversion of wilderness – forest, grassland and swamp – to urban growth, agriculture and pasture has already caused losses of perhaps one species in 10 in the natural ecosystems disturbed by humankind.
But what could be catastrophic climate change driven by profligate human burning of fossil fuels could by 2070 overtake the damage delivered by changes in the way land is used, with catastrophic consequences for birds, reptiles, mammals and other vertebrates.
Losses could reach 20% or even 40%, according to a new study in an academic journal, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
And a second, separate study in another journal spells out the challenge for governments, communities and conservators: the present targets for biodiversity conservation are simply inadequate. They leave 83% of the land surface unprotected, and 90% of the oceans not effectively conserved.
There have been calls to set at least half of the globe aside for the wild animals, plants and fungi that – until human numbers began to expand – dominated the planet. But the latest study, in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, suggests that even a half-share for nature might not be enough to save many species from extinction.
Researchers have been warning for two decades that climate change poses a real threat to the thousands of known species of wild creature, and millions of plants and animals yet to be identified and monitored....
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