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Global Wildlife Faces Mass Extinction

Global wildlife faces the greatest extinction risk since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago, says a report compiled recently by two international scientific groups.

The report says conservation strategies are failing, with nearly half of the world’s major nature reserves being heavily used for agriculture. Yet hunger and malnutrition are widespread in many biodiversity-rich areas.

Today, nearly 24 percent of mammals, over 12 percent of birds, and almost 14 percent of plants are threatened with extinction. The mass extinction is affecting species of all evolutionary forms and sizes, in every region of the world, and in every kind of habitat, the report says.

The report, called “Common Ground, Common Future: How Ecoagriculture Can Help Feed the World and Save Wild Biodiversity”, was published by Swiss-based the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and Future Harvest, a US agricultural research group.

It provides for the first time a comprehensive summary of the interactions between wild biodiversity and agriculture around the world.

The strategy of setting aside protected areas for wildlife is not working, the report says. A total of 45 percent of the world’s 17,000 major nature reserves are heavily used for agriculture, or surrounded by intensively farmed land.

And people living in at least 16 of the world’s 25 key biodiversity hotspots, where wildlife is most at risk, suffer extreme malnutrition and hunger, placing even greater stress on conservation efforts.

The report outlines a new solution to the biodiversity extinction crisis based on a new understanding of wildlife biology and ecology, on-the-ground experimentation, and major scientific advances in genetics, remote sensing, and other fields.

The approach, called “ecoagriculture”, seeks to help farmers, those living in or near biodiversity hotspots, to grow more food while conserving habitats critical to wildlife. The approach dramatically breaks with both traditional conservation policies and common agriculture techniques.

(Xinhua 05/09/2001)

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