The five main drivers of biodiversity loss

Around the world, conservation groups, researchers and volunteers are working to combat the five main drivers of biodiversity loss identified by scientists.

1. Save the prairie

Porter’s name with light clover, cream clover, and goldenrod may evoke the wild colors of summer meadow blooms, but this particular plant is also hidden in a conservation seed bank that is hoped to secure North America’s future. prairie plant population.

Land and ocean use change are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in the world, and prairie loss is “the biggest conservation problem currently facing biodiversity in eastern North America,” according to Grassland Initiative from the Southeast (SGI) at Austin Peay State University’s Center of Excellence for Field Biology, working to conserve and restore this important ecosystem.

Last year they launched the Conservation Seed Bank (CSB) to conserve vulnerable populations of rare and declining prairie species. Cooper Breeden, SGI’s plant conservation manager, said: “One of the reasons we decided to implement CSB was that the loss of our endangered plant populations outweighed efforts to conserve them in most cases, though not for a lack of effort. There are not enough funds and capacity for conservation.

“We’re trying to fill the void by trying to collect rare and declining prairie species in the southeast, primarily targeting populations that are very vulnerable and don’t currently receive much conservation attention.”

Seeds and more

Since August 2020, the team has collected more than 35,000 seeds in 66 collections of 29 species.

However, SGI’s work is not limited to saving seeds. “Ideally, we try to preserve the populations where they are,” said Breeden. “The ultimate goal of this collection is to support the survival of the population in the wild.”

The next stage is an interactive map that allows users to see which species are in the seed bank and where they came from. “The goal of making some of the data in our collection easily accessible to the public is that it can be a resource for our partners involved in grassland conservation in the region,” he said.

“As the capacity of our conservation community grows, there will be more opportunities to plant these seeds back into the soil.”

2. Waste water recycling

Sixty billion tonnes of renewable and non-renewable resources are extracted annually worldwide, making direct resource exploitation, along with exploitation of organisms, the second largest driver of biodiversity loss. In terms of water, consumption has increased worldwide by about 1% annually since the 1980s, and global water demand is expected to continue to increase at the same rate through 2050, according to Progress report water resources in the world UN 2019.

Desalination plants have been in the limelight, but as major cities from California to Sydney battle drought and water scarcity, they are turning to countries like Israel and Singapore for guidance on how to recycle wastewater. Globally, 80% of wastewater currently flows back into ecosystems without being treated or reused.

For decades, Israel has invested heavily in wastewater treatment, in addition to desalination plants, recycling nearly 90% through wastewater treatment facilities, which divert treated water to irrigation. The by-products of the sludge are used as fertilizer and produce biogas.

In Singapore, five NEWater plants meet up to 40% of the country’s water needs through recycling, according to the national water agency. By 2060, NEWater is expected to meet up to 55% of demand. The 48 km deep tunnel sewer system (DTSS), a waste water highway, carries used water to a recovery plant to be treated and purified into reclaimed or discharged water. When the second phase of the project, which is currently in progress, is completed, the pumping station and conventional water reclamation plant will be eliminated, freeing up land.

3. Protection of peatlands

They don’t sound glamorous or attention-grabbing, but swamps and peatlands hold one of the keys to fighting the climate crisis. While peatlands cover only 3% of the world’s land area, they store nearly 550 billion tonnes of carbon, twice as much as all the world’s forests.

About 10% of the UK is covered in peat bogs. However, much of it has been degraded and estimates suggest that UK peatlands can emit the equivalent of 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Restoring degraded peatlands can stop these emissions and generate biodiversity benefits for wildlife, including plants, birds and insects.

The Great North Bog, which includes four National Parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the proposed South Pennines Park, accounts for about 92% of the UK’s upland peat and is one of the UK’s leading restoration projects.

The project, led by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, Yorkshire Peat Partnership and Moors for the Future Partnership, aims to restore nearly 7,000 square kilometers of upland peat, which stores 400 million tonnes of carbon. Damaged peat in Great Northern Swamp currently releasing about 4.4 million tonnes of carbon per year, but project organizers hope that “by joining forces with some of Europe’s most successful peatland restoration organizations, we can achieve radical and urgent change to save most of the peat swamps in the highlands. England before it’s too late.”

4. Fighting plastic pollution

Scientists have predicted that over the next 20 years the amount of plastic waste in the oceans is likely to triple, from an estimated 8 million tonnes per year today to 29 million tonnes by 2040. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the crisis. plastic, but scientists, inventors, and volunteers around the world are looking for countless ways to deal with it.

A team from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University in the United States is trying to compile all of this information into a “plastic pollution prevention and collection technology inventory”. Among the 52 technologies included so far is the Great Bubble Barrier, where “a tube placed diagonally along the bottom of a waterway creates a bubble barrier by pumping air, creating a stream that carries debris to the surface. and guide them to the recruitment system” ; The Sacred Turtle, a 1,000-foot-tall floating unit that is towed by two ocean liners and catches floating debris; and Save, don’t throw, a youth-led initiative that recycles tennis ball containers into fishing rods for fishermen.

Zoie Diana, a doctoral candidate in Duke University’s department of conservation and marine science and a member of the team behind the inventory, said the goal is to add more than 40 new technologies early next year. “We hope our study and inventory will serve as a tool to prevent plastic from entering waterways and accumulating existing pollution, complementing ongoing efforts to reduce the generation of plastic pollution higher up in its life cycle.”

5. Dealing with invasive species

At least 107 critically endangered birds, mammals and reptiles are thought to benefit from eradicating invasive mammals on the islands, according to a study published in 2016 . “Although they are still few and spatially localized, these cases demonstrate that with prompt and appropriate action, it is possible to reduce the rate of human-caused extinctions,” notes the global assessment of the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Services. Ecosystem (IPBES)

New Zealand is at the forefront of this action and has committed to eradicating mink, possum and rats by mid-century under its Predator Free 2050 plan, using a combination of traps, hunting, poison and technology. But it also tests other projects. A specially designed predator exclusion fence has been erected to protect the 6,000 square meters of prime habitat of the critically endangered hardy locust, believed to be the world’s first fenced habitat designed for insects.

New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 goal is “to bring the sounds of insects, bats, reptiles and birds back to forests, farmlands, small towns, cities and beaches.” Currently, 74% of the country’s native land birds, 84% of native reptile species and 46% of vascular plant species are in danger of extinction or at risk of extinction, according to the Department of Conservation. But in the five years since Predator Free 2050 was released, the number of birds such as the kea, kākā, kākāriki, Antipodes snipe and Tūī has increased, according to a report. five year progress report .

By Max Benato. Article in English

Matt Thompson

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