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U.N.: 1M species threatened as global extinction rates speed up

By
Brooks Hays
A new report finds the planet's species extinction rate is accelerating. Photo courtesy of Pxhere
A new report finds the planet's species extinction rate is accelerating. Photo courtesy of Pxhere

May 6 (UPI) -- The "unprecedented" loss of biodiversity around the globe is a growing threat to humans, according to a first-of-its-kind report by the United Nations.

The report was authored by an international group of scientists and approved for publication by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

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According to the new report, the planet's species extinction rate is accelerating. More than half a million species are currently without sufficient habitat for long-term survival. Several thousand are likely to disappear within a few decades.

Scientists blamed the dramatic -- and ongoing -- losses on deforestation, pollution, poaching and over-fishing.

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"We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide," Robert Watson, chair of the IPBES, said in a news release.

According to the new report, some 1 million plant and animal species face the threat of extinction. Additionally, 40 percent of amphibian and coral species, as well as a third of all marine mammals, are classified as threatened.

The report's authors put the blame for nature's decline on humans.

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"Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing," said Josef Settele, co-chair of the group responsible for the new report. "The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed. This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world."

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The report's message echoes warnings issued by similar studies.

Another recent report determined humans were to blame for a quarter of all vertebrate deaths on land. In March, researchers issued a report showing alien species are responsible for the majority of extinctions. Researchers also previously reported growing levels of meat consumption are accelerating extinction rates.

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Healthy ecosystems, which perform a variety of valuable ecosystem functions, are essential for healthy human populations.

Though nature is trending in the wrong direction, authors of the new report suggest humans can clean up the mess by slowing climate change and providing threatened species and habitats greater protections.

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