Human activity on the planet has caused an unprecedented decline in biodiversity in recent years, with a negative impact on three-quarters of the land area and two-thirds of the ocean. Wildlife species are disappearing tens to hundreds of times faster today than they were in the past 10 million years, melting ice at the poles and increasing ocean pollution, prompting United Nations organizations and environmental associations to warn of the danger of mass extinction if this approach continues.
By biodiversity, we mean the process that connects millions of living things on the planet, in which each element plays an important role that contributes to the survival of the other. This ensures that we have the food we eat daily, the fresh air we breathe and the fresh water we drink. Losing a link in this interconnected process or network poses a threat to entire systems of life.
The pressure on forests is currently the most prominent manifestation of biodiversity degradation: between 2010 and 2015 alone, more than 30 million hectares of forest disappeared.
Al Jazeera Documentary's documentary "A World Without Forests" highlights the challenges these ecosystems face, due to destruction and overexploitation to allow for agriculture and urbanization.
So what are the most significant manifestations of the current collapse of biodiversity? What are the most difficult challenges to the Earth's ecological balance? Are there moves to protect our planet's biodiversity and save humanity from extinction before it is too late?
Afforestation operations. Laws to protect the lungs of the planet
Forests currently cover 30% of the land area above the ground, and include about 80% of the terrestrial biodiversity, especially in the forests of the northern hemisphere of the planet and tropical rainforests, which are also the main source of oxygen inhaled by living organisms, and the forests collectively contain more than 60,80 species of different trees, and provide life for 75% of amphibious organisms, 68% of different bird species, and <>% of mammal species.
Thus, the conservation of biodiversity depends heavily on the protection of the world's forests and how to deal with them, especially since human activity in recent decades has caused the deterioration of forest ecological balances. The State of the World's Forests 2020, produced by FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), confirms that deforestation and forest degradation continue at alarming rates.
The United Nations estimates that about 420 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990 due to their conversion to other land uses, although the rate of deforestation has declined in the last three decades compared to the situation prevailing in the mid-twentieth century, thanks to extensive afforestation and the intervention of states and governments by enacting strict laws to protect forest wealth, with tougher penalties for violators.
According to United Nations estimates, the rate of deforestation decreased to 10 million hectares per year between 2015 and 2020, compared to an average of 16 million hectares per year in the nineties of the last century, although the deterioration of forest cover remains worrying, in addition to the agricultural expansion of humans, since 1990 more than 100 million hectares of forests have been affected by fires, diseases, drought and unfavorable weather events.
Red List. Tens of thousands of endangered trees
Agricultural expansion at the expense of forests remains a major factor in biodiversity decline, while the resilience of human-dependent food systems and their ability to adapt to future changes depends on the protection of forest biodiversity. Large-scale commercial agriculture (mainly livestock, soybean and oil palm) accounted for 40% of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2010.
Urban sprawl threatens agricultural areas and threatens the natural imbalance on the land
Forests are being depleted, especially in densely populated areas, where the demand for agriculture is high and urban sprawl is rapid, such as Europe, North America, parts of China and India, where biological balances are constantly deteriorating, and there are currently at least 20,8 different tree species on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and Species, of which <>,<> are described as critically endangered.
The situation is no less dangerous for wildlife, of which 268 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds living in forests have been monitored, as the United Nations State of the World's Forests 2020 report indicates that the index of forest wildlife species fell by 53% between 1970 and 2014, with an annual decline of 1.7%, meaning that some of these species are threatened in the future by extinction.
"Sixth extinction". Man's deadly manipulation of the planet
There is no doubt that the environmental pollution we are currently experiencing, and the unprecedented deterioration of biodiversity, will have serious repercussions on the future of this planet, as the collapse of the balances on which living organisms are based is not easy at all, as the situation can turn into something like rolling a snowball from the top of a steep mountain to make its speed out of control. The pessimistic scenarios speak of a new mass extinction approaching, and some say that we are currently living it, and these scenarios are justified.
The current rate of extinction of animal species is described as a hundred times higher than ever, and the last time the planet lost its animals at such an accelerated rate was when dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago, within the so-called Cretaceous Triple extinction.
Scientists have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact causes behind the previous five major extinctions, the first of which occurred 443 million years ago in the Ordovician period, and the least ferocious waves wiped out more than 70% of living organisms from Earth. But the sixth wave points the finger at humans and their activity destroying biodiversity on the blue planet.
According to Elizabeth Colbert in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Sixth Extinction... We are already living within the sixth extinction, and she justified this by the fact that the presence of humans – 300,85 years ago and today – has reduced the biomass of mammals on the planet by 50 percent, and by <> percent for plants.
Insect extinction. The base of the food pyramid causes the collapse of the system
When we talk about extinction, we always think of devastating natural disasters, such as powerful earthquakes, the collision of an asteroid or comet from space with Earth, or massive volcanic activity that fills the sky with smoke and blocks the sunlight, plunging the Earth into waves of ice that put an end to most known life forms.
But what poses the greatest threat to life above the surface of the earth today, is not even nuclear bombs, biological warfare or deadly epidemics, but small creatures that live among us, and we may not pay any attention to them, insects, yes, those small creatures whose number is declining annually significantly, in a bleeding that portends a real disaster that may end with the collapse of the entire ecosystem.
Insects.. The base of the pyramid in the food chain, considered the basis of life above ground
Insects form the base of the pyramid in the food chain that is the basis of life above ground, and play a prominent role in global agricultural production thanks to their role in pollinating plants, which means that their disappearance from the life cycle will necessarily lead to the collapse of the food system, and this will necessarily reflect on the fate of humans.
According to a study conducted by the scientific journal "Biological Protection" and published in detail by the British newspaper The Guardian, the rate of extinction of insects is currently 8 times faster than the rates of extinction of other organisms, and this means that these insects are threatened with extinction after about 100 years, if the recorded extinction rates continue as they are.
Biodiversity degradation. Catastrophic transformations that will kill humans
In his September 2020 message to the UN Conference on Biodiversity, FAO Director-General Shoduneo says biodiversity loss will undermine global efforts to tackle poverty and hunger.
More than a billion people around the world rely heavily on wild foods, such as game meat, edible plant products, mushrooms and fish, which typically provide levels of key micronutrients, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and about 2.4 billion people use wood energy for cooking, especially in rural areas.
The disappearance of forests will inevitably lead to direct harm to humans in their daily livelihood, and human health is also indirectly linked to forests, as there are more than 28,<> plant species currently registered as medicinal, most of which are found in forest ecosystems.
The deterioration of biodiversity in forests leads to the disappearance of species of insects, plants and microorganisms that humans rely on to resist some diseases and manufacture types of medicines, researchers have found that some of the chemicals extracted from these organisms are able to fight cancer, which is described as a disease of the age, and by destroying this biodiversity we have deprived themselves of a precious treasure that can be exploited to improve human life.
Forest protection. Last rescue attempt
Since the entry of the new millennium, scientists have warned that man is in the process of destroying himself by himself, air pollution levels have reached an unprecedented rate, climate changes have turned green areas into arid deserts, demand for food has doubled, urban areas are expanding with rapid demographic growth, and the area of forests continues to shrink, so how will man be able to breathe while oxygen decreases and the demand for it increases?
Due to high temperatures, many forests are exposed to fires that are difficult to control.
Thus, over the past two decades, actions to combat deforestation, indiscriminate logging, poaching and overgrazing have accelerated, and the United Nations Convention on Climate Change provides for support to States that are taking initiatives to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Protected areas also play an important role in preserving some endangered plant and animal species, although the protection policy pursued by a number of countries currently covers only 18% of forest areas - equivalent to 700 million hectares, mostly in the form of national parks - and areas of conservation of endangered species, and areas of organized hunting.
Depletion of the sea. The wave of extinction creeps on the planet
Of course, forests are not the only ones suffering from biodiversity degradation, marine life and algae are also silently extinct underwater, and in addition to ocean pollution, overfishing with giant nets causes fish to be caught indiscriminately, including egg and small fish. Reports warn that if the world continues to consume this amount of fish in such an irresponsible way, it could lead to the complete depletion of fish stocks in the seas by 2050.
2020 witnessed an extinction with great symbolism, when the China Fisheries Experts Center declared the extinction of one of the oldest and largest freshwater fish in the world, the Chinese swordfish, which has lived in the planet's waters for more than 200 million years. She attributed the causes of this extinction to unregulated fishing and the destruction of the habitats of this huge fish.
China officially announces the extinction of the Chinese hedgehog fish "Chinese swordfish" after living on Earth for more than 200 million years
This gradual extinction on land and sea, caused by humans for the first time in the Earth's million-year history, may not be clear enough to some, but researchers and scientists in the field of climate and environment are determined to link human activity harmful to nature and climate to the wave of mass extinction, and some fear that time has already run out, and it is impossible to predict the reaction of the blue planet, especially if scientists' predictions of an increase in the average global temperature of more than two degrees Celsius during the twenty or thirty years are met. coming.