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Humans are set to drive hundreds of bird and animal species towards extinction by destroying their natural habitat within the next fifty years, a study warns.
As humans continue to expand our use of land around the globe, wildlife could lose so much habitat that it could drive numerous species to extinction.
By the year 2070, researchers have forecast that up to 1,700 species of amphibians, birds, and mammals will be threatened due to being driven from their homes.
Ecologists at Yale University examined how land-use changes will impact future biodiversity, the variety of plant and animal life found in a particular habitat.
They examined different scenarios based on population growth and economic changes in global society that could lead to an increase in land use.
They then compared the most likely areas for human expansion to regions 19,400 species call home.
Researchers found that 886 amphibians, 436 birds, and 376 mammals would lose so much of their natural habitat that they would be at much higher risk of extinction.
Species living in Central and East Africa, Mesoamerica, South America, and Southeast Asia will suffer the greatest loss, according to the study.
The research team said that the potential paths for expansion represent ‘reasonable expectations’ about future societal developments, demographics, and economics.
Study co-author Yale Professor Walter Jetz said: ‘Our findings link these plausible futures with their implications for biodiversity.
‘Our analyses allow us to track how political and economic decisions – through their associated changes to the global land cover – are expected to cause habitat range declines in species worldwide.’
The study shows that under a ‘middle-of-the-road’ scenario of moderate changes in human land-use, about 1,700 species will likely experience marked increases in their extinction risk over the next 50 years.
The findings suggest that they will lose roughly 30 per cent to 50 per cent of their present habitat ranges by 2070.
Among them are species whose fates will be particularly dire, such as the Lombok cross frog in Indonesia, the Nile lechwe in South Sudan, the pale-browed treehunter in Brazil and the curve-billed reedhaunter found in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.
All of them are predicted to lose around half of their present day geographic range in the next five decades.
The projections and all other analysed species can be examined at the ‘Map of Life’ website.
The maps show the impact on species at a kilometer-scale resolution.
‘The integration of our analyses with the Map of Life can support anyone keen to assess how species may suffer under specific future land-use scenarios and help prevent or mitigate these effects,’ said Dr Ryan P. Powers, co-author and former postdoctoral fellow at Yale.
Species living in Central and East Africa, Central America, South America, and South East Asia will suffer the greatest habitat loss and increased extinction risk, according to the study.
But Professor Jetz cautioned the global public against assuming that the losses are only the problem of the countries within whose borders they occur.
‘Losses in species populations can irreversibly hamper the functioning of ecosystems and human quality of life,’ he said.
‘While biodiversity erosion in far-away parts of the planet may not seem to affect us directly, its consequences for human livelihood can reverberate globally.
‘It is also often the far-away demand that drives these losses – think tropical hardwoods, palm oil, or soybeans – thus making us all co-responsible.’
The findings were published by the journal Nature Climate Change.
Sir David urged action against global warming and called it a man-made disaster that poses ‘our greatest threat in thousands of years’
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