BioDiversity at Risk – But it’s Not Inevitable

May 20, 2018


Global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses, according to a new analysis.

Insects are vital to most ecosystems and a widespread collapse would cause extremely far-reaching disruption to life on Earth, the scientists warn. Their research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected.

However, if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C – the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement – the losses of insects are far lower.

The new research is the most comprehensive to date, analysing the impact of different levels of climate change on the ranges of 115,000 species. It found plants are also heavily affected but that mammals and birds, which can more easily migrate as climate changes, suffered less.

“We showed insects are the most sensitive group,” said Prof Rachel Warren, at the University of East Anglia, who led the new work. “They are important because ecosystems cannot function without insects. They play an absolutely critical role in the food chain.”

“The disruption to our ecosystems if we were to lose that high proportion of our insects would be extremely far-reaching and widespread,” she said. “People should be concerned – humans depend on ecosystems functioning.” Pollination, fertile soils, clean water and more all depend on healthy ecosystems, Warren said.

“We know that many insects are in rapid decline due to factors such as habitat loss and intensive farming methods,” said Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, UK, and not part of the new analysis. “This new study shows that, in the future, these declines would be hugely accelerated by the impacts of climate change, under realistic climate projections. When we add in all the other adverse factors affecting wildlife, all likely to increase as the human population grows, the future for biodiversity on planet Earth looks bleak.”

Important however, to note that not all the news is bleak, there are some points of light indicating responsible stewardship of biosystems is possible, and happening in some cases.   Here, Fisheries.

Environmental Defense Fund:

At a time when there is significant concern about the erosion of environmental protections, a new report card from the National Marine Fisheries Service confirms that one of the most important conservation success stories of our time remains on track. The turnaround of U.S. fisheries is a remarkable bipartisan success story. This week’s annual Status of U.S. Fisheries report documents how a recovery kick-started during George W. Bush’s time in office, then accelerated under President Obama, held pace during the Trump administration’s first year.

Getting fishery management right is incredibly complex, as illustrated by a history of failure in the United States that spanned decades. Those failures too often deprived saltwater anglers of abundant target stocks, removed local catch from restaurant menus and grocery stores, and created hardship for coastal communities. Yet it is increasingly clear that the United States has now built many of the laws, regulations and institutions needed to meet this complex challenge. If we stay the course, the dividends of our hard-won gains will only grow.

Take the Pacific groundfish fishery. The oceans off our nation’s West Coast have a rich marine biodiversity; and the groundfish fishery, encompassing more than 60 species of rockfish and over 90 species in total, is the region’s largest. Yet by 2000 it was declared a federal disaster, and imports rapidly displaced Pacific groundfish in the U.S. seafood marketplace. What followed was years of hard work by fishermen and other stakeholders – which included the imposition of science-based catch limits for every species, monitoring of every fishing vessel, and development of a new catch share management system that incentivized conservation. Now, the fishery is roaring back. This week’s report confirms that another three Pacific groundfish stocks – bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish and Pacific Ocean perch – have been rebuilt. Healthier fisheries mean higher catch volumes over time. Indeed, landings in this fishery grew by a whopping 50% last year alone. As markets can be re-established, this will translate into more profits for coastal small businesses and more local seafood for American consumers.

While the overall progress is clear, the news is not uniformly positive. The additions of red hake and shortfin mako to the overfishing and overfished lists underscore ongoing challenges facing many stocks of New England groundfish and Atlantic Highly Migratory Species. In the Gulf of Mexico, although red snapper is recovering under science-based catch limits and commercial catch shares, its removal from the overfished list in this week’s report is premature: it reflects a recent technical change in the way NOAA calculates overfished status for red snapper rather than progress under the council-approved rebuilding plan.  As the most recent stock assessment notes, “an important caveat is that under the previous definition of [Minimum Stock Size Threshold] the red snapper resource would still be considered overfished”.

Another reason for continued vigilance is pending legislation that would undermine core conservation tenets of our nation’s federal fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Congress should take careful note of the trend lines detailed in this week’s report and think long and hard before weakening a law that is underpinning our success.


7 Responses to “BioDiversity at Risk – But it’s Not Inevitable”

  1. ted knopper Says:

    Magnuson-Stevens Act is mentioned an not a single word about any proposed changes and how they would be bad. Is that not propaganda rather than informing the public?

    • Abel Adamski Says:

      Google is your friend in this instance.
      For example
      Chairman Emeritus Young stressed the need for flexibility, specifically when setting timelines on rebuilding stocks and limiting annual catches. Ranking Member Huffman agreed there should be changes but cautioned against weakening the original law, and the Honorable Jonathan Mitchell (Mayor; New Bedford, MA) pushed back on the idea of flexibility, warning against making it a euphemism for deregulation.

      Chairman Doug Lamborn (CO-05) reminded everyone that limits set by the MSA have impacts outside of fisheries and the environment, calling the hearing one about “supporting American small businesses.”

      And there you have it, the Republican focus on the short term profit along with the votes that will attract

  2. indy222 Says:

    “if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C – the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement – the losses of insects are far lower.” ……. Yeah, that would be great. But impossible. Using the well-reasoned evidence of Schurer, Mann et al 2017 data which is what all paleo data and climate models should be using, then at the close of 2016 we were already AT +1.48C. This is using the GISS data set for temperature, which is more reliable than the often used NOAA dataset which applies no correction for the missing weather station data in the Arctic regions. Take the 1951-1980 baseline that (for some bizarre reason) the GISS data likes to make their zero point, then correct to the conventional 1880-1910 average (means adding +0.245C) to get to the conventional “pre-industrial”, then apply the additional 0.2C from the new Schurer, Mann et al paper, and you get +1.48C. makes a political charade worthy of the Emporer’s New Clothes of Paris. Temperature is a ratchet. It goes up as long as GHG’s are emitted, and then it stays constant when you halt all GHG emissions. The only exception, the only hope is to massively pull CO2 back out of the atmosphere, in addition to what is naturally pulled out by the ocean and land (both of which are being progressively crippled in their ability to do so), and which is getting paltry funding.

  3. botterd Says:

    Recent Dutch study confirms serious dwindling of the number of insects, some by 60%. Research is based on long periods of annual counting of specific species in specific areas, but decrease has been related to agricultural practices more than to warming.

  4. Says:

    3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted — but sure, not all the news is bleak.

  5. Lionel Smith Says:

    Anybody who drives regularly will know about the current lack of insect strikes on windscreens.

  6. dumboldguy Says:

    Not much response to this post. I will remind everyone that it is the little guys that we should be focusing on. Not just the insects, but the bacteria, fungi, algae, and plankton in the soil and water. The basic underpinnings of all the ecosystems on the planet are being destroyed, and a little bright-sidedness and wishful thinking about some successes with a few fish stocks is really a form of denial.

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