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Scientists' warning to humanity on tree extinctions

Plants People Planet

By: Malin Rivers, Adrian C. Newton, Sara Oldfield, Global Tree Assessment Contributors


The concept of a ‘World Scientists Warning to Humanity’ dates back to 1992, when more than 1700 scientists, including most living Nobel laureates, called on humankind to halt environmental destruction and make fundamental changes to the relationship between humans and the natural world, in order to avoid ‘vast human misery’ (Kendall, 1992). This call was renewed 25 years later, when more than 15,000 scientists signed a second warning, which highlighted the fact that most environmental trends had significantly worsened since 1992. This highlighted intensifying climate change, deforestation and agricultural production as particularly concerning issues (Ripple et al., 2017). This statement suggested a range of steps that humanity could take to transition to sustainability, including halting the conversion of forests, increasing the protection of habitats through establishment of protected areas, restoring plant communities (and especially forest landscapes) at large scales and developing adequate policy instruments to remedy the exploitation and trade of threatened species, among others (Ripple et al., 2017).

This ‘second warning to humanity’ has subsequently spawned a series of further articles on a similar overall theme but focusing on specific environmental issues. Examples include scientist warnings to humanity on microorganisms and climate change (Cavicchioli et al., 2019), insect extinctions (P. Cardoso et al., 2020), the freshwater biodiversity crisis (Albert et al., 2021), the degradation of large lakes (Jenny et al., 2020), the illegal or unsustainable wildlife trade (P. Cardoso et al., 2021), endangered food webs (Heleno et al., 2020), invasive alien species (Pyšek et al., 2020) and the climate emergency (Ripple et al., 2020). The breadth of these different themes highlights the multidimensional nature of the global biodiversity crisis, but the list is hardly exhaustive. Major declines are occurring in many different species groups, including birds, mammals and amphibians, while abrupt large-scale changes are being observed in the entire biological systems, including coral reefs, arctic tundra, temperate grasslands and coastal ecosystems (IPBES, 2019a; Newton, 2021a; Turner et al., 2020). These changes are being driven by a range of anthropogenic factors, including land/sea use change, direct exploitation, climate change, pollution and introduction of invasive alien species (IPBES, 2019a).


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Wednesday, September 14, 2022