Posts Tagged 'Ecology'

Global Biodiversity Indicators at-a-glance

ResearchBlogging.orgI really wanted to talk about this article before. A few weeks ago, it was published in Science a work by an extensive work by a high number of researchers, focused in the review and discussion of indicators of global indicators of biodiversity. Citing the article, in 2002 world leaders committed, through the Convention on Biological Diversity, “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss”.

Now, 2010 has been named the International Year of Biodiversity. And a team reported in this article, numbers and trends showing the current state of several indicators of biodiversity, grouped into four main categories: indicators of state, pressure, response and benefits.

The indicators of state are related with the state of biodiversity in terms of species and ecosystems. Eight indicators show a decline. For example, the Living Planet Index (mean population trends of vertebrates) show a continuous decline since 1970. The Red List Index, indicating the risk of extinction of mammals, birds, amphibians and corals, also show a decline. Other indicators are Forest Extent, Coral Reef Condition and Water Quality Index.

Indicators of pressure on biodiversity are more related with difficulties upon the improvement of biodiversity. One example is the Exploitation of Fish Stocks, which exhibits a great increase. All the indicators of pressure (Ecological Footprint, Nitrogen Deposition Rate, Alien Species in Europe, and Climate Impact Indicator) show an increase.

Although the numbers are discouraging, some hope arises when we look at the positive numbers. Indicators of response are increasing, and the authors show some data related with improvements in biodiversity. For example, at least 16 bird species extinctions were prevented by conservation actions during 1994-2004. Also, deforestation in Amazonia decreased, protected areas increased and several countries have policies and agreements related with the prevention of spread of alien species.

This post is not intended to be a review of the article. Instead, it offers a view at-a-glance, a general commentary of the article. I advice to all the readers of this post to read the article and to visit the webpage of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where you can download more information about the mission and goals for this year and for the future.

In words of the authors of the article, “our results show that, despite a few encouraging achievements, efforts to address the loss of biodiversity need to be substantially strengthened”.

References

Butchart, S., Walpole, M., Collen, B., van Strien, A., Scharlemann, J., Almond, R., Baillie, J., Bomhard, B., Brown, C., Bruno, J., Carpenter, K., Carr, G., Chanson, J., Chenery, A., Csirke, J., Davidson, N., Dentener, F., Foster, M., Galli, A., Galloway, J., Genovesi, P., Gregory, R., Hockings, M., Kapos, V., Lamarque, J., Leverington, F., Loh, J., McGeoch, M., McRae, L., Minasyan, A., Morcillo, M., Oldfield, T., Pauly, D., Quader, S., Revenga, C., Sauer, J., Skolnik, B., Spear, D., Stanwell-Smith, D., Stuart, S., Symes, A., Tierney, M., Tyrrell, T., Vie, J., & Watson, R. (2010). Global Biodiversity: Indicators of Recent Declines Science, 328 (5982), 1164-1168 DOI: 10.1126/science.1187512

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) Global Biodiversity Outlook 3., & Montréal, 94 pages. (2010). Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 Convention on Biological Diversity

Time to wake up?

Recently, a series of articles in Nature [1-3] described new perspectives about the climate crisis. The problem shows when you have to predict a scenario. Usually, researchers make descriptions and simulations about the outcome of the climate status using computational calculations, and they are able to simulate even thousand of years. They can simulate the development of the increase in the Earth’s temperature, CO2 concentration, and so on.

Well, the issue is: researchers had considered that a specific amount of CO2 could be accepted as reasonable in the atmosphere. Raising this concentration, we would expect the global warming to increase rapidly and then, we would see global changes. That amount was considered as 550 p.p.m. Then, researchers started to discuss about whether 550 p.p.m. would be too high. And the consequence was to determine the limit in 450 p.p.m. That was the dominant idea. Until now. In this articles in Nature [1-2], data and facts are provided to question that number. Obviously, these facts are not new. But we have here a comprehensive view about the situation. Briefly, new simulations allow us to evaluate the evolution of the climate status if a 450 p.p.m. of CO2 is achieved. The problem is that several simulations predict a dark outcome: the CO2 levels would keep high thousands of years. If you ask to someone: “How many years do you think the CO2 levels will keep high?”, the people would think, at most, 100 or 200 years. The main view is, if we stop emitting CO2 production, the levels will start to decrease, in a linear fashion. But the predictions tell us the opposite: even in 3000 years, CO2 levels will be high. Also global temperatures stay high.

More extreme scenarios, for example, 1000 p.p.m of CO2, are discouraging [2]. It seems that a limit of 350 p.p.m. is needed, according to some researchers [1]. A new global movement called 350.org, has been created, and the next October 24 has been claimed as the International Day of Climate Action. You can see a video here:

Of note, we are now above the 350 p.p.m. limit. A paper published in this issue of Nature [3], describes the perspectives of greenhouse-gas emissions if we want to keep the climate under a 2 ºC limit of increase in the temperature. It is likely that, under the actual scenario, we will raise the global warming above the “2 ºC” limit.

The question is: considering that, according to the simulations, it seems obvious that it is too late to keep the CO2 concentration under a safe amount, how are we going to proceed? We need to put a great effort in the study of technologies to avoid a risk to the human kind. For example, important cities should be relocated, we will need research about food technologies, water recovering and recycling, and technologies to build environments, houses and devices to live in safe and comfortable conditions.

When still some people are denying the existence of global warming and the need of stop the raising of CO2 concentrations, it is too late? Do we need to finally wake up? I strongly suggest to read these articles and to visit 350.org to more info.

References

[1] Monastersky, R. A burden beyond bearing. Nature, 2009; 458:1091-1094.

[2] Schneider, S. The worst-case scenario. Nature, 2009; 458:1104-1105.

[3] Meinshausen, M. et al. Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 ºC. Nature, 2009; 458:1104-1105.

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