UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 29, 2020 SNIP: Human damage to biodiversity is leading us into a pandemic era. The virus that causes COVID-19, for example, is linked to similar viruses in bats, which may have been passed to humans via pangolins or another species. Environmental destruction such as land clearing, deforestation, climate change, intense agriculture and the wildlife trade is putting humans into closer contact with wildlife. Animals carry microbes that can be transferred to people during these encounters. A major report released today says up to 850,000 undiscovered viruses which could be transferred to humans are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. The report, by The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), says to avoid future pandemics, humans must urgently transform our relationship with the environment. The report says, on average, five new diseases are transferred from animals to humans every year – all with pandemic potential. In the past century, these have included: the Ebola virus (from fruit bats), AIDS (from chimpazees), Lyme disease (from ticks), the Hendra virus (which first erupted at a Brisbane racing stable in 1994). The report says an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of these, 540,000-850,000 could infect humans. But rather than prioritising the prevention of pandemic outbreaks, governments around the world primarily focus on responding – through early detection, containment and hope for rapid development of vaccines and medicines. This approach can also damage biodiversity – for example, leading to large culls of identified carrier-species. Tens of thousands of wild animals were culled...
2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

SOURCE: Engineering & Technology DATE: March 26, 2020 SNIP: Researchers have claimed that more than 2,000 renewable energy facilities are built in areas of environmental significance and could be negatively impacting local biodiversity. The team from the University of Queensland in Australia have mapped the location of solar, wind and hydropower facilities in wilderness, protected areas and key biodiversity areas. Lead author José Rehbein said he was alarmed by the findings: “Aside from the more than 2,200 renewable energy facilities already operating inside important biodiversity areas, another 900 are currently being built. “Energy facilities and the infrastructure around them, such as roads and increased human activity, can be incredibly damaging to the natural environment. These developments are not compatible with biodiversity conservation efforts.” The majority of renewable energy facilities in western Europe and developed nations are located in biodiverse areas. Rehbein said there is still time for developers to reconsider facilities under construction in Asia and Africa. University of Amsterdam senior author Dr James Allan said effective conservation efforts and a rapid transition to renewable energy was essential to prevent species extinctions and avoid catastrophic climate...
New study says Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems facing collapse

New study says Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems facing collapse

SOURCE: The Hill DATE: January 28, 2020 SNIP: A perfect storm of climate change, extreme weather and pressure from human activity is threatening to collapse Earth’s most biodiverse ecosystems, according to a new study. The study published this week mapped more than 100 locations where hurricanes, floods, heatwaves, droughts and fires have impacted tropical forests and coral reefs, which host a large share of global biodiversity and provide ecosystem functions used by millions of people. Researchers said ongoing climate change is leading to an increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme climatic events in the tropics, which is leading to unprecedented negative ecological consequences. “Tropical forests and coral reefs are very important for global biodiversity, so it is extremely worrying that they are increasingly affected by both climate disturbances and human activities,” lead researcher from the Embrapa Amazônia Oriental in Brazil and Lancaster University Filipe França said in a statement. Researchers found climate change is causing more frequent and stronger storms, marine heatwaves, hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons in Central America, the Caribbean, East Africa, most of Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands. “A range of post-hurricane ecological consequences have been recorded in tropical forests: the destruction of plants by these weather extremes affects the animals, birds and insects that rely on them for food and shelter,” Guadalupe Peralta, from Canterbury University in New Zealand, said in a statement. Researchers said in some regions, such as the Caribbean Islands, extreme weather events have decimated wildlife, reducing numbers by more than half, and high temperatures with longer and more severe dry seasons have led to the spread of unprecedented and large-scale...
Native Species or Invasive? The Distinction Blurs as the World Warms

Native Species or Invasive? The Distinction Blurs as the World Warms

SOURCE: Yale e360 DATE: January 14, 2020 SNIP: Across the warming globe, a mass exodus of tens of thousands of species is transforming the distribution of biodiversity — and challenging fundamental tenets in conservation policy and science. Are policymakers, land managers, and conservationists prepared? In recent years, scientists have documented countless species shifting their ranges toward the poles, higher into the mountains, and deeper into the seas in response to the changing climate. Deciduous shrubs of willow, birch, and alder have spread into the low Arctic tundra. Brightly colored tropical parrotfish and rabbitfish have arrived in the temperate kelp forests of the eastern Mediterranean. Elkhorn corals from the Caribbean now sprout in thickets off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The trend is expected to continue as the climate crisis deepens, with species that societies rely upon for a wide range of economic, cultural, and recreational value shifting their ranges to survive. “The entire trajectory of natural capital, from aesthetic to economic,” says University of Florida wildlife ecologist Brett Scheffers, “is going to be moving.” The coming exodus, Scheffers and other scientists say, will require a transformation in the way we think about wildlife management and conservation — and a reevaluation of the traditional native-alien dichotomy that has governed it. For decades, conservation biology has characterized the movement of species into new habitats as potential invasions of alien species with the capacity to threaten local ecosystems and already resident species, leading to the formulation of policies to reflexively repel the newcomers. This approach, and its underlying classification of wild species as either “native” (and thus worthy of protections) or “alien”...
Shift to renewable energy could have biodiversity cost, researchers caution

Shift to renewable energy could have biodiversity cost, researchers caution

SOURCE: Monga Bay DATE: June 18, 2019 SNIP: Climate change has widely reported negative consequences, including exacerbating severe weather patterns, harming wildlife and potentially worsening human conflict and migration. In an attempt to minimize these planetary changes, the Paris Agreement set the ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse gas emissions…. [A]ccording to experts, the long-awaited move to a fossil fuel-free economy will not come without its own set of issues. “The transition towards a renewable energy and transport system requires a complex mix of metals — such as copper, cobalt, nickel, rare earths, lithium and silver — many of which have only previously been mined in small amounts,” says a recent report commissioned by Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit that promotes sustainable solutions to the impacts of mineral and energy development. While the study explores the considerable impacts of such mining on human health and culture, it shows that biodiversity could be under threat, too. “A rapid increase in demand for metals for renewable energy … could lead to mining of marginal or unconventional resources, which are often in more remote or biodiverse places,” said study co-author Elsa Dominish, a senior research consultant at the ISF. In short, some remote wilderness areas have maintained high biodiversity because they haven’t yet been disturbed — but neither have their reserves of minerals, making these areas attractive targets for mining companies. “The mining of many metals used for renewable energy technologies and EVs already impacts wildlife biodiversity,” Dominish told Mongabay, citing the example of bauxite mining. Bauxite ore is used...