How much space does nature need? 30 percent of the planet may not be enough

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 05:10 in Earth & Climate

For millions of years, giants graced the murky depths of China’s Yangtze River. The Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), which could reach 7 meters in length, used its swordlike snout to sense the electrical perturbations made by smaller prey, snatching them in the dark. But no more. The fish was declared extinct in 2019, a victim of overfishing and habitat loss. Its story is being played out across the world. From winding rivers to the windswept tundra to the dense tropical forests of Borneo, nature is in trouble. Plants and animals are increasingly threatened by human activities and habitat encroachment. One study estimates a million species face extinction within decades (SN: 5/8/19). That’s 1 million distinct, idiosyncratic answers to the basic question of how to make a living on planet Earth, gone. The scale of this potential loss has many countries worried. Aside from its inherent value, the natural world makes the planet livable through processes like cleaning the air, filtering water, cycling carbon dioxide and pollinating...

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