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Posted: 2018-11-15 14:59:03

Elephant near the Mara North Conservancy in Kenya. (© Jon McCormack)

Humanity must stop the pace of wildlife extinctions — or face extinction, according to the United Nations.

The world has two years to seal a new pact on wildlife protection, the head of the UN body on wildlife, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), told The Guardian last week. In two days, the EU and 195 member nations of the CBD will gather for two weeks to try to stem the tide of species extinctions.

Nothing less than humanity is at stake, observers say.

“Biodiversity is life on Earth, and every extinction chips away at it, undermining the stability of the planet,” said Olivier Langrand, executive director of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), which gives grants to organizations to conserve biodiversity hotspots. “We believe that if governments, businesses, civil society organizations and communities work together now, we can halt the biodiversity crisis,” Langrand said.

But how exactly is biodiversity so important to humanity? Why is biodiversity necessary for the stability of the planet? It may not be self-evident, so here are four reasons.

  1. Wildlife support healthy ecosystems that we rely on.

Conservation researchers Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich posited in the 1980s that species are to ecosystems what rivets are to a plane’s wing. Losing one might not be a disaster, but each loss adds to the likelihood of a serious problem.

Whether in a village in the Amazon or a metropolis such as Beijing, humans depend on the services ecosystems provide, such as fresh water, pollination, soil fertility and stability, food and medicine. Ecosystems weakened by the loss of biodiversity are less likely to deliver those services, especially given the ever-growing human population.

One example of this is Kenya’s Lake Turkana — the world’s largest desert lake, a habitat for a variety of wildlife including birds, Nile crocodiles and hippos and a source of food and income for about 300,000 people.

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