(Boreal Forest. 2012. Antony Spencer)

State of Habitat

Section
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
Page
7.2

The Worldwide Fund for Nature’s exceptional ‘Living Planet Report 2020’1, Fig. 19 – reproduced below, attempts to show the global distribution of highly modified, largely natural, and in-between habitats. The dark green areas approximately correspond with the 25% figure for ‘natural’ environments arrived at in 7.1. Obviously there are smaller areas that meet this criterion that do not show up at this scale, but at its simplest there are six* great areas remaining, the:

  • Amazon
  • Canadian and North American boreal forests and tundra
  • Sahara
  • Russian taiga forests and tundra
  • Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau
  • Australian deserts and savannas
  • *(Antarctica should probably be included as well, but is not represented by this methodology or projection).

(WWF. 2020. Modified [red], in-between [light green], and largely intact [dark green] habitats)
As we have noted, species are in marked decline (see Global Living Planet Index, 7.1), so are natural habitats similarly decreasing? We have already ‘lost’ 75%, and it seems that, of the remaining, they have declined, on average, by 2% since the year 2000 (ibid.) – see ‘Species-Habitat Index’ below.

(WWF. 20201)

 

To make this decline in habitat more understandable, it is estimated that the global loss of forest alone (>30% tree cover), per year, is currently 10* million hectares2, an area the size of South Korea. This is explored in greater detail in webpage 7.3 ‘Land Clearing’.

Global loss and cause is very broad scale and there is great regional variation. The Living Planet Index1 tries to break this down into five regions in their figures 4 and 5 below, and it can be seen that recent loss has been greatest in Latin America and Africa, and least in Europe and Central Asia, though, of course, the latter experienced much of their habitat and species loss centuries earlier.

*(see note at end webpage 7.3. Estimates vary between the conservative FAO figure here and that of groups such as Global Forest Watch which put loss at ~20 Mha/yr).

 

(WWF. 20201)

 

On a more positive note, we have seen earlier (see ‘State of the Environment’) that progress has been made in providing some protection for key, biodiverse areas around the globe, with the percentage of these areas ‘protected’ rising from <10% in 1970 to > 40% in 2020 (ibid) (dotted line on Graph D; KBAs and protected areas can be viewed at: https://unbiodiversitylab.org/). These areas are usually those with high levels of diversity, endemism and intactness. The broad, global distribution of 17 of the biggest, ‘megadiverse’ areas, has been shown thus by Moreton et.al.3, below:

 

(Moreton, S., et. al. 2014. The world’s megadiverse countries, their size, endemism, and no. of habitat types)

 

Larger countries, like the USA and Australia, not surprisingly, exhibit a larger number of major habitat types, and Australia has also extraordinarily high endemism (‘uniqueness’) due to its size, tectonic stability and lengthy isolation, allowing for long periods of relatively uninterrupted evolution.

While Graph D and Moreton et. al.’s ‘endemism/habitat’ chart are very interesting, I am wary of presenting them in the knowledge that they could be used to bolster ‘triage’ or ‘compromise’, or ‘balance’ arguments whereby the remainder of the natural world is bargained away to development, and that this is presented as acceptable so long as some of the most important remaining bits are protected. This technique is so far past its use-by-date that it astounds me that it is still in active deployment around the world. Just possibly it had some credence when the globe was largely ‘natural’ and our imprint was small, but this is so long ago now, and the current state of Nature so parlous and in such rapid decline, that all that remains is vital and must be hung onto at all costs. (And, indeed, increased if we are to have any sort of healthy, functioning planet into the future). How the extremism of dividing up and exploiting the last remaining wild fisheries (e.g. 75% of large, predatory fish, gone4), or rainforests (64% gone5), or large mammals (83% gone4), or wetlands (93% gone4), can be presented as ‘reasonable’ and ‘fair’, and ‘practical’, beggars belief.

 

1 WWF. 2020. Living Planet Report 2020 – bending the curve of biodiversity loss. WWF, Gland, Switzerland.

2 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). 2020. Global Forests Resources Assessment. United Nations, Rome, Italy.

3 Moreton, S., Sheppard, A., Lonsdale, M. 2014. Biodiversity: Science and Solutions for Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Clayton, Australia.

4 Bradshaw, C., et. al. (17 authors). 2021. Understanding the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future. Frontiers in Conservation Science. January 13th.

5 Krogh, A. 2021. State of the Tropical Rainforest Report. Rainforest Foundation Norway < Only a third of the tropical rainforest remains intact (regnskog.no)>.

Explore Other Natural Habitat and Species

7.1 Introduction

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be able to stop, let alone want to stop. How far ...

7.2 State of Habitat

The Worldwide Fund for Nature’s exceptional ‘Living Planet Report 2020’1, Fig. 19 – reproduced below, attempts to show the global distribution of highly modified, largely natural, and in-between habitats. The dark green areas approximat...

7.3 Threats: Land Clearing and Direct Habitat Loss

This is the big one. As pointed out in 7.1 and 7.2 it accounts for over half of all population declines (see Figure 5, webpage 7.2) of native species and is as obvious as it is crude. We burn, chop, bulldoze, log, graze, and drain remaining habita...

7.4 Threats: Species Overexploitation

After land clearing and direct habitat loss, the next biggest threat for native species is overexploitation. It accounts for approximately 24% of declines1 (see webpage 7.2, figures 4 and 5) and can be as simple and direct as overhuntin...

7.5 Threats: Invasive Species and Diseases

Again, strangely, an unfashionable topic for modern environmentalism, but nonetheless, third on the list of threats to the natural world, with an average score across regions of 13%  (to recap: #1 is habitat loss at 50% and #2 is exploitation of s...

7.6 Threats: Fire

Running across and through almost all threats to habitat is fire. Whether indirectly, through clearing, draining and ‘opening up’ of the bush, and as a result of climate change, or directly, through the deliberate lighting of fires, we are seeing ...

7.7 Threats: Erasing Nature from the Mind

I am going to help you here before you make a terrible faux pas and condemn yourself as a “morally repugnant”  ‘conservationist’, or worse, an old-fashioned ‘preservationist’. You cannot see this picture of the Peruvian Amazon. Look awa...

7.8 Habitat and Species Protection Goals

The most relevant international goals for habitat and species protection for the latest decade, 2010-20, were the so-called ‘Aichi goals’. (‘Aichi’, because the location where the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 193 signatory n...

7.9 Acting for Habitat and Species

Everything in T10 is designed either to increase the protection of habitat and species, or reduce the pressures on same. As such, actions outlined in each of the 10 sections will – directly or indirectly – make a significant contribution. This sai...

7.10 The Future

Jorgen Randers was one of the authors of the seminal ‘Limits to Growth’ in 19721, as well as the 30-year update published in 20042. In 2012 he published ‘2052 – A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years’3. It woul...

Explore Other Sections

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
1/11

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship

This section is designed to foster appreciation and insight that will – hopefully – lead to novel ways to build a better relationship between human beings and Nature. This section is also atypical ...
2. Reduce Consumption
2. Reduce Consumption

2. Reduce Consumption

I hope Reneé Descartes would forgive us for saying that, at least for the modern world, he was wrong.  When, in 1637, he said: “I think, therefore I am”, he could not have anticipated that the majo...
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

In a supposedly secular age there has arisen a global religion and god like never before, a religion whose reach and power makes every other belief system before it seem pitiful and insignificant: ...
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

What we do in our day-to-day lives can have great impact. Section Four divides up these actions into three groups – Work (4.2 & 4.3), Volunteering (4.4), and Action, e.g. voting, protesting, et...
5. Reduce Population
5. Reduce Population

5. Reduce Population

Even on top of Mt. Everest, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overp...
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

The media is one of the three, great ‘poles’ of power in the world (alongside political and corporate power) and how they frame and present ‘the environment’ has a profound effect on how we respond...
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be...
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

Our current energy largesse is an extraordinary ‘gift’, an unprecedented gift of the ages; millions of years to produce and from millions of years ago. Coal, oil and gas, forming...
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

Just as with the previous section – ‘Energy’ – which is, inescapably, all about fossil fuels so pre-eminent and extraordinary has been their dominance and transformation of the world in the last 20...
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

Section 10 will attempt to organise this enormous topic by addressing the context and status of pollution in 10.2, before focussing in on air pollution; particularly greenhouse gas pollution and cl...