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Rapid Species Loss a Global Danger, Scientists Warn

Massive loss of biodiversity is proceeding at such a great rate that scientists consider it to have joined climate change and the greenhouse effect as a major global threat.

This is the conclusion of a new report, "Global Biodiversity Scenarios for the Year 2100," written by an international team of researchers, led by Dr. Osvaldo Sala of the University of Buenos Aires and Dr. Ferry Chapin of the University of Alaska. 

The paper appears in this week's issue of "Science," the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  

The research team developed scenarios for different regions of the world in the year 2100, taking the five major forces for change and applying them to each region. 

A global computer model developed in the Netherlands was used to examine the different effects in each region of variations in the intensity of each cause. The most profound changes in the world's biodiversity would occur in a situation where each of the drivers of change interact with one another as well as on the environment. 

The team's analysis found that Mediterranean climate and grassland ecosystems are going to experience the greatest change and the greatest danger of species extinction, as these areas are most susceptible to the various influences - climate, carbon dioxide concentration, nitrogen deposition, land use change - which drive the process of biodiversity reduction. 

The least threatened parts of the planet are the northern temperate ecosystems, because major and use change has already occurred in these regions.

"Biodiversity is critical to the welfare of human beings, just as it is to the functioning of ecosystems," says one of the authors of the paper, Dr. Brian Walker of the Australian government's national research agency CSIRO. "Until now, the major inclusive studies of the coming century have looked at climate and greenhouse, but not biodiversity loss. 

"Global biodiversity change is so rapid, and so closely linked to human use of natural resources, that it has to be seen as a distinct and potent danger to the global environment," says Dr. Walker. 

Source: March 10, 2000 (ENS)


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