Nature: There are Worse Threats to Biodiversity than Climate Change

1944 Picture of Bulldozers

1944 Picture of Bulldozers

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A commentary published in Nature has claimed that careless human exploitation of natural resources poses a far greater threat to endangered species than climate change.

Biodiversity: The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers

There is a growing tendency for media reports about threats to biodiversity to focus on climate change.

Here we report an analysis of threat information gathered for more than 8,000 species. These data revealed a contrasting picture. We found that by far the biggest drivers of biodiversity decline are overexploitation (the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth) and agriculture (the production of food, fodder, fibre and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees).

Early next month, representatives from government, industry and non-governmental organizations will define future directions for conservation at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). High on the agenda for political leaders, non-governmental organizations, conservationists and many others will be taking steps to turn the 2015 Paris climate agreement into action. It is also crucial that the World Conservation Congress delegates — and society in general — ensure that efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna.

The basic message emerging from these data is that whatever the threat category or species group, overexploitation and agriculture have the greatest current impact on biodiversity (see ‘Big killers’).

Of the species listed as threatened or near-threatened, 72% (6,241) are being overexploited for commerce, recreation or subsistence.

anthropogenic climate change — including increases in storms, flooding, extreme temperatures or drought that exceed background variability, as well as sea-level rise — is currently affecting 19% of species listed as threatened or near-threatened.

http://www.nature.com/news/biodiversity-the-ravages-of-guns-nets-and-bulldozers-1.20381

The commentary suggests climate might become a bigger issue in the future.

I suspect even the claim that 19% of species are endangered by climate change is dubious, given that sea levels have barely shifted, hurricane activity is showing a long term decline, and global temperature has been so flat, NASA has been forced to resort to controversial temperature adjustments to keep the excitement flowing.

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62 thoughts on “Nature: There are Worse Threats to Biodiversity than Climate Change

    • Well a gallon of ice cream; plus a bus load of fourth graders, armed with fly swatters can take care of most blow fly situations.

      g

    • Snap! My first thought was the threat to biodiversity caused by the depredations on prey-birds and bats by wind and big solar power. Any concerns will be dismissed as necessary collateral damage to save the planet. Apparently,according to Greenpeace, road-kill and domestic cats are a bigger threat to biodiversity than windmills.

      • Wind turbines are likely the major threat to PREDATORY species …. not cats, cars, or window panes. I can’t recall hearing of any instance of a domestic house cat taking down an eagle falcon or hawk and it’s very rare for predators to fly into a window or moving car because their vision is excellent, they are very agile and generally much smarter than other birds. (Owls do occasionally collide with cars because they have more limited peripheral vision, they are so intently focused on what their target prey is doing and they are swooping down toward it on the ground that sometimes happens to be on the other side of a roadway. )

      • First Mike,
        We had a kitten, nearly twenty years ago, that went for a small hawk – sparrow-hawk or similar. Snudge was only about six months old [too young to know better?] when he shot out after a small hawk that had chase a sparrow into a bush in our garden. The hawk tried to fly away – struggling to gain height away from the house – up hill in our garden. In the end Snudge didn’t get the hawk – but came back and ensured that the sparrow had had a really bad hair day . . . .

        Snudge later specialised in catching squirrels – up in the trees.

        Auto

  1. I think the writing on the wall is being observed for AGW and a replacement is being sort.

    Mind you UN Agenda 21 with its doctrine of “sustainability”, which most certainly does not include one’s cash income, may rise faster than any othe doctrine if and when AGW falls.

    They are not doing that badly actually, please read my blog. Agenda 21 is probably rife in your local government, schools and legislation.

    https://thedemiseofchristchurch.com/2013/03/13/are-we-experiencing-a-communist-infiltration-sponsored-by-the-united-nations/

    Cheers

    Roger

    • Dealing with AGW (→AGCC) was a replacement for the supposed superiority of state-administrated resource allocation in meeting human wants. While the political left repudiated various aspects of Soviet policy, they pointed to it as proof of the feasibility of central planning. When the Soviet Union began to implode, the environmental movement mushroomed. Same opponents (industrialists), same _basic_ solution (state intervention), new rationale.

  2. Sadly hurricanes will get worse. But anyway, I’m currently reading the biography of Alexander Von Humboldt, titled ‘The Invention of Nature’ by Andrea Wolf. An amazing man. He was railing about environmental damage done by man in the 1820s!

    • Just what is a ” Sadly Hurricane ” and are they contagious ??

      Did Humboldt first describe what a sadly hurricane is ??

      g

    • ANY opinion expressed by an actor/actress/song writer/singer/rapper/fiction author I automatically tune out as they are universally very poor at using any concept of reason/logic and appear to be capable of only operating at an emoting level perhaps by training.

      • they are universally very poor at using any concept of reason/logic

        Let’s be careful with the blanket statements. As an electrical engineer, I take that one personally. I’m also a singer, songwriter and guitarist. So is Willis Eschenbach. Einstein played the violin. Richard Feynman could rip it up on the bongos. Brian May, guitarist for Queen, has a doctorate in astrophysics. Stanley Kubrick was an artistic and technical genius, and a chess champion to boot. Art and critical thinking are not mutually exclusive.

      • “As an electrical engineer… Einstein… Richard Feynman”
        Obviously music and art are NOT the primary occupations of these, as was the intent listed by my comments (which should have been obvious). Of course someone with instruction in the sciences should be an exception unless there are other necessities overriding that intelligence such as grant payments being more important than an ethical outlook as in the AGW circle. I’m also sure that there are exceptions even among the groups listed, but I consider the percentage so low that it’s not worth my time to find them.

      • There is a quote from a supermodel: “its not that models are stupid, its just that being smart isn’t a pre-requisite.”

        Most actors, except for character actors (and most of them are male for some reason – outside of Kathy Bates is there a female Steve Buscemi?) have two things in common.

        One, they won the genetic lottery.

        Two, they won an audition long before they were famous, usually beating out other actors who looked identical to them.

        People confuse an actor’s RIGHT to speak out, with an actor’s ABILITY to understand things any better than any other lay person.

      • I see fiction author in your list. Ever hear of Isaac Asimov? Arthur C. Clark? E. E. Smith? I’m still trying to figure out which one of your other listed people you are since I didn’t see much reason nor logic in your comment.

  3. Another unexpected benefit of the warmer winters in the Great Britain
    Warm winters and less smoking push cot deaths to record low

    The number of babies dying of unexplained cot death has fallen to an all-time low, figures show.
    Victims of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) have almost halved in a decade. Campaigners attribute the decline to warmer winters and a fall in smoking. In 2014 there were 128 cot deaths in England and Wales compared with 165 the previous year and 207 when records began in 2004, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports.
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/warm-winters-and-less-smoking-push-cot-deaths-to-record-low-f6kxlwcl7

  4. “We found that by far the biggest drivers of biodiversity decline are … agriculture…”

    So close and yet so far.

    Not even agriculture is a substantive danger to biodiversity. By far the greatest danger to biodiversity is urbanized landscapes.

    As Joni Mitchell so clearly put it; “pave paradise and put up a parking lot”.

    It is city dwellers that freak out at the sight of strange critters, especially insects and furry animals. bedbugs and roaches are normal; giant moths are frightening.

    • No kidding. At a garden party in Denver a couple of decades ago, a lot of the guests noticed a “humming bird” among the flowers. When I pointed out that the humming bird had antennae, they all backed away slowly…

  5. Climate change can be good in other ways according to today’s Times (behind paywall).

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/warm-winters-and-less-smoking-push-cot-deaths-to-record-low-f6kxlwcl7

    “Victims of sudden infant death syndrome (Sids) have almost halved in a decade. Campaigners attribute the decline to warmer winters and a fall in smoking. In 2014 there were 128 cot deaths in England and Wales compared with 165 the previous year and 207 when records began in 2004, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports.”

  6. “I suspect even the claim that 19% of species are endangered by climate change is dubious, given that sea levels have barely shifted, hurricane activity is showing a long term decline, and global temperature has been so flat.”

    Sea change being still affects species that benefit from sea change.What hurricane activity has to do with anything? Global temperature can be measured? And what is it that so called “global temperature”?

    • I suspect the 19 percent is based on the model mean assumptions of the CIMP5 models, and the further wrong assumptions concerning those affects.

  7. You can fly at 30,000 ft for hours on end over Australia without ever seeing a mine. Then, if you do see one, it will be a tiny pin prick in a very large tapestry.
    The concept of mining causing species extinction or diversity loss is attractive to the naïve and easy to say quickly, but the reality fails at least in this country.

    Indeed, the opposite might be true. In my lifetime I have seen the emergence of a few human mutant forms, the precursors to diversity. These are identifiable through a non-existent link in the brain between wishful thinking and hard data. Happily, many mutants are no so fertile or long-lived, so I hope that these green creatures will soon be out of sight, out of mind.

    • Can’t recall who wrote the essay years ago in Foreign Affairs (?) but the analogy the environmentalist authors used to support nuclear power was that the “problem” of storing high-level nuclear waste was akin to worrying about the scar a hypodermic needle might leave on an elephant’s hide.

  8. Extinction is normal. In fact, mass extinction is normal. Evolution couldn’t function without it, there would be no room. It’s like saying every building ever built should still be standing.

  9. anthropogenic climate change — including increases in storms, flooding, extreme temperatures or drought that exceed background variability, as well as sea-level rise — is currently affecting 19% of species listed as threatened or near-threatened.

    What nonsense. First, there is zero evidence that man is affecting any of those things which, other than SLR amount to simply weather. Secondly, there is no evidence that our weather has gotten worse. We certainly hear a lot more about it, and there’s certainly a great deal more hand-wringing, gum-flapping, whingeing and pants-wetting about it. SLR has been happening since the start of the holocene some 11,500 years ago and there is no evidence, nor any reason to think that it would be speeding up.

  10. What’s the problem, don’t we all believe in evolution and natural selection any more? If they can’t cut it they’re outta here.

  11. Wasn’t it last year that we were told that Climate Change was going to kill half of the species on the planet over the next 30 years? These Biodiversity piece has to up their alarmism if they want to compete for funding.

    On a serious note…

    Science has to drop the alarmism and provide the real level of concern. We could run into serious problems by misdirecting our efforts. See the WUWT piece about the near miss for WWIII on the front page as to why this is important.

  12. Most species have ranges that cover 10’s of degrees from north to south (or up and down).
    The IPCC’s worst case scenario is only about 5C of warming.
    Ranges may be temporarily narrowed, but they aren’t going to be driven extinct.
    PS: The above completely ignores the ability of both plants and animals to shift their ranges.

    • Mark W “Ranges may be temporarily narrowed, but they aren’t going to be driven extinct.
      PS: The above completely ignores the ability of both plants and animals to shift their ranges.”

      Have been reading Jim Steele’s book —very interesting how every one of the CAGW poster species is alive and doing well. Local extinctions occur with local micro climate changes–often caused by land use changes, but others because of natural and ongoing changes in circulation. When conditions revert to a more favorable micro climate, somehow those “extinct” species re-appear. Funny how nature takes care of it’s own,Eh??

  13. “by far the biggest drivers of biodiversity decline are overexploitation (the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth)”

    In Louisiana, the only thing needed to bring any species to the bring of extinction is one good recipe.

  14. From the article: “Biodiversity: The ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers”

    What, no mention of the ravages of windmills and solar powerplants on biodiversity?

    article: “It is also crucial that the World Conservation Congress delegates — and society in general — ensure that efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna.”

    That should include addressing the problem of windmills killing millions of birds annually. Remember: “We want to ensure that efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna”. Your words. Apply them to everything, including windmills and other dangerous technologies.

    article: “… anthropogenic climate change — including increases in storms, flooding, extreme temperatures or drought that exceed background variability,”

    Please define “background variability”. Can you quantify that?

    article: “as well as sea-level rise — is currently affecting 19% of species listed as threatened or near-threatened.

    Sea level rise might be affecting some species, but *increased* storms, flooding, extreme temperatures and drought are just unproven CAGW conjecture which cannot be shown to be connected to the status of the Earth’s wildlife, since CAGW cannot be shown to exist currently.

    • “as well as sea-level rise — is currently affecting 19% of species listed as threatened or near-threatened.

      I’d like to see the specific list of 19000 species, 1900 species, 190 species, or even 19 specific species actually threatened by sea level rise on actual islands actually being inundated in the next 200 years.

      Seems like we were supposed to see 30% threatened by extinction by 2100, and here we are 1/6 of the way towards 2100 and and only lost 1.

  15. “There is a growing tendency for media reports about threats to biodiversity to focus on climate change.”

    Well they would say that now wouldn’t they?
    http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/past-issues/issue-5/the-return-of-nature

    Drowning climastrology clutching at straws-

    “What is salient is not important. What is important is not salient. The media turns us away from the issues that will determine the course of our lives, and towards topics of brain-melting irrelevance.”

    and you don’t want to get sidetracked by the evil multinational media from CAGW with brain melting irrelevancies remember-
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/08/05/monbiot-the-climate-crisis-has-arrived-but-the-media-are-keeping-it-secret/
    Don’t worry, we’ll be around to keep yo’all focussed on the main game and those dire hockey sticks of yours.

  16. A familiar tale with their most sacred of critters around here-

    “The most well studied populations (Argentina/Brazil, South Africa and Australia) show evidence of strong recovery with a doubling in numbers every 10-12 years (making the population around 15,000 animals).”
    http://oceanadventures.co.za/south-african-right-whales-and-threat-to-the-population/

    So much so the damn things are becoming a navigational hazard but that’s the beauty of switching from whale oil lamps to steam driven Edison light bulbs and subsequent, in case you’ve forgotten windmill fans.

  17. This seems to just be a comment, with no data, not even in the supplementary section where it belongs and few citations. I have long experience with both the development of biodiversity ideas and fisheries exploitation. The first long ago surprised me when I discovered that the X number of species going extinct/year was a hypothetical, probably first based on island biogeography, where it has long been known that small isolated areas have a rapid turnover of species. This got extrapolated to land masses which is why there is great interest in areas like the greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

    In college I worked one summer there for the fish hatchery over a half century ago when they discovered that stocking was unnecessary for cutthroat trout given their natural reproduction. A generation ago lake trout appeared in Yellowstone Lake reducing their native prey, cutthroats. There is a now a commercial fishery there killing lake trout which doubts that they can make them extinct. I have gone through several iterations as an “expert” on Gulf of Mexico fisheries and again long ago realized that we should be asking the question–how do we make this species extinct? I suspect that we know this for few species.

    This might give more guidance and credibility to the problem. Besides, it is good science. Calling these threats “Big Killers” seems to show their lack of understanding of science and language.

    Not long ago comments on one of these blogs got off onto slide rules. Some of us, mostly engineering types, have been discussing if this may have been the last taught instrument of technology that helped understanding scale. No doubt other reasons.

  18. Those bulldozers are clearing the environment of flora, fauna, and people, too, for low density, large-scale energy converters in a green blight. Save Bambi!

    Also, do your part, sequester carbon at your neighborhood Planned Parenthood, where they will harvest and recycle it for a “greater god”… I mean, “greater good.”

  19. I’m not so certain that the noise about “biodiversity” is good science. Isn’t it part of the point of evolutionary change for for species to compete to fill an ecological niche? Lose that one and it’s game over for the “less fit” has always been that way. For those species that hook their symbiotic wagon to an expanding population of a dominate adaptable species isn’t it good news for them and their progeny? Adaptability doesn’t seem to me to be dependent on the gross array of species that have evolved in isolated niches outside dominate species expansion. In fact to take steps to cultivate ever more “diversity” leads to the end of evolution and ever more exotic conditions required to “save” those variations.

    • Fossilsage, your statements about biodiversity are an awful lot more sophisticated than I have ever seen in biology classes. The reality is that new species arise all the time. And old ones are not necessarily as dead as we thought either. Decades ago, I was saddened to learn about the extinction of the quagga. In the 1990’s, it turned out that this was really a subspecies of the Southern or Burchell’s zebra–which had a number of quagga-like animals in its herds. When these were bred to each other, the quagga was essentially restored.
      A Christian priest once told me that the universe was a present for God’s Son Jesus. No matter what you actually believe about religion, I love that. The whole universe is a giant kaleidoscope!

  20. Can anyone point me to solid evidence that increased biodiversity is always a good thing?

    Or is this just something we’ve all been taught and accepted based on zero evidence?

    For example, if we eliminated mosquitoes completely from the planet, would this have any net negative impact on humans? Taking it further, what practical difference if any individual species goes extinct?

    • Science doesn’t decide good or bad but biodiversity measurements give some clues as to how things operate. For example, stressful places like estuaries and polluted places show reductions in some metrics, not always in numbers of individuals. There is a big literature about this, not very conclusive from what I have seen. There is an argument about more stability with more species, but exceptions seem to abound. Again what is stability. Spent more than half my life with mosquitoes, too much bias there to comment much, but still think that they are curious creatures.

  21. Just remember that the only things we’ve ever exhausted are renewable. Socialism and luddites are what cause these problems. Make fish stocks a property right and the problems will fix themselves. Convert the world to the dreaded GMO’s and watch land usage plummet.

  22. Eric,

    I do like your last paragraph: it puts it all in perspective.

    There is (here I go again) NO SUCH THING as “biodiversity”: we were all warned about this several years ago by LMofBr. He was right; he is always right.

    “Biodiversity” in my humble opinion, is complete and utter bollocks: that is, nonsense, fiddlesticks, twaddle, bunkum, UN “speak” of the lowest order.
    The word itself is meaningless.

    They have corrupted the language to the point that they might aswell come up with: geo-diversity, pseudo-diversity, polar-diversity, solar-diversity etc..

    It is good (for us all) to know that you EXPOSE these fruit-cake eco-tards in the way you do.

    Keep ’em comin’ !

    Regards,
    WL

  23. The commentary suggests climate might become a bigger issue in the future.

    – no:

    It is also crucial that the World Conservation Congress delegates — and society in general —
    ensure that efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna.
    ____________________________

    And the following table shows

    – anthropogenic global warming ONLY affecting 19% of species
    – all other factors top AGW

  24. Like it or not; and like biodiversity or not:

    Man and his followers cat and dog are the greatest threat to biodiversity.

  25. For me the table shows:

    That world is an economy – so we should treat it as an economy. Where AGW may be a factor – anyway one of the least immediate factors.

  26. The climate has been changing for eons and will continue to change wheather Mankind is here or not. The real problem is Man’s out of control population. If Man does not control his own population then Nature will, catastrophically. We ourselves may be one of the species that our out of control population drives to extinction.

  27. Fire is a threat to biodiversity? First.let me note that people claim fire is good because natural systems evolved with fire. Doesn’t fire make available space for new niches, or better put, it renews niches that have become senile?

    Environmentalists are so hard to tolerate because they often argue for and against everything, and the only factor deciding which side of the argument to take currently being political expediency?

  28. The people on this planet would be better off if efforts to insure biodiversity were redirected to any of thousands of other goals.

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