If you wanted the latest ‘macro’ stats on biodiversity decline, then this Telegraph article by Geoffrey Lean summarises some of the latest thinking well.
The numbers are quite scary:
“Species are now going extinct at between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate: by some estimates, half of the 13 million or so forms of life on the planet will disappear by the end of the century. That would be the greatest extinction since the death of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, from which life took millions of years to recover.”
“Forty per cent of the world’s forests – which absorb rainwater, releasing it gradually rather than letting it run straight off to cause floods – have been felled in the last three centuries. A third of its coral reefs – the most vital breeding grounds for fish – have been seriously damaged. And every year a staggering 25 billion tons of precious topsoil is eroded away.
In all, the most thorough international study into the issue concluded, 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystem services have been degraded in the past 50 years.”
I’ve been watching a brilliant documentary series released a year or so ago called “South Pacific” about the islands, region and wildlife there.
(It’s also available in HD on iTunes, where I bought it, which seems like a more environmentally friendly way to watch it)
I’d really recommend it to anyone wanting to see what these numbers I linked to above mean in practice. It contains some of the best nature photography you’ll ever see. The last episode looks at some of the proposed solutions to tackle negative change.
Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” is also a useful reminder of what can happen when humans fail to plan. But it also contains some useful descriptions of how a bit of advance planning can often save the day on specific issues.
UPDATE: 4/12/10: I don’t want to depress anyone. But this link to the species lost recently is worth a look. I didn’t know the up to seven meter Chinese paddlefish even existed, until it, er, didn’t.