You’ve seen the pictures. Polar bears, ‘stranded’ on a floating piece of ice in the Arctic, time lapse images depicting larger extents of visible rock landscapes as glaciers continue to recede over time, and maps illustrating regions of the world that would be underwater should our climate continue to warm.
Regardless of whether you choose to interpret these messages as scare tactics, guilt mechanisms, or truth, the bigger question is: To what extent is declining biodiversity triggering the attention of scientists? Should the world really be viewing the loss of species through such dramatic means?
Murray Rudd, an environmental biologist from the University of York in the U.K., reported that almost all scientists working within conservation biology perceive the loss of species worldwide as a significant problem.
The existence of severe biodiversity decline is becoming more and more difficult to deny as evidence of this phenomenon grows. Referring back to the polar bear scenario, recent studies have found that as a response to melting sea ice and thus restricted access to food sources, polar bears are resorting to eating their young to survive. This cannibalism is quite disturbing, but shows the devastating effects of a warming climate on species worldwide.
Interestingly, the logic of this study works almost analogously to analyzing skepticism within climate change science. Some claim that there is little consensus behind projections set out by climate change research. The same, however, does not appear to be true for changes in biodiversity, which may help to create a solid foundation for future investigations.
Personally, I am reassured to discover that 99.5% of conservation biologists interviewed perceive declining biodiversity as a ‘real’ ecological problem, and not simply a crisis fabricated by a few extreme biologists. We now know that species may begin disappearing at an alarming rate (as predicted), but exactly what steps should the scientific community take?
In a perfect world, money and resources would be allocated towards sustaining populations of all species. Realistically, however, this is just not possible. Now, the focus for conservation biologists should turn towards finding reasonable solutions in an attempt to preserve as much biodiversity as possible. This is, of course, a daunting task, as many conflicting interests are bound to arise.
These issues will need to be resolved – not an easy challenge, by any means. But the important thing to remember is that a problem has definitely been identified. Now, it is up to us to work together as best we can to create optimal solutions.