Agriculture and overuse greater threats to wildlife than climate change – study
Efforts to address climate change must not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna, say researchers
Agriculture and the overexploitation of plants and animal species are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change, new analysis shows.
Joint research published in the journal Nature on Wednesday found nearly three-quarters of the world’s threatened species faced these threats, compared to just 19% affected by climate change.
It comes a month before the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosts its annual summit in Hawaii to set future priorities for conservation.
The team from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the IUCN assessed 8,688 near-threatened or threatened species on the IUCN’s “red list” against 11 threats: overexploitation, agricultural activity, urban development, invasion and disease, pollution, ecosystem modification, climate change, human disturbance, transport and energy production.
It found that 6,241 (72%) of the studied species were affected by overexploitation – logging, hunting, fishing or gathering species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth.
These included the Sumatran rhinoceros, western gorilla and Chinese pangolin – all illegally hunted for their body parts and meat – and the Bornean wren babbler, one of 4,049 species threatened by unsustainable logging.
Some 5,407 species (62%) were threatened by agriculture alone. The cheetah, African wild dog and hairy-nosed otter are among the animals most affected by crop and livestock farming, timber plantations and aquaculture.