29 May 2013 | By Franz Essl
The effects of environmental pressures on biological extinctions may not be evident for decades after the events, a study finds. Stefan Dullinger, Franz Essl (C·I·B Research Associate), Petr Pyšek (C·I·B Research Associate) and colleagues compared the current number of threatened species in 22 European countries, with contemporary and historic levels of human-caused environmental pressures on biodiversity. They used three socio-economic measures as proxies for these environmental pressures: human population density, per capita gross domestic product, and a measure of land use intensity. Their analysis showed that socio-economic data from 1900 and 1950 better explained current proportions of threatened species of mammals, reptiles, bryophytes, vascular plants, dragonflies and grasshoppers than contemporary data. The finding held even when the researchers controlled for countries’ investments in environmental management and protection. The findings suggest that the negative impact of current human activities on biodiversity will not become fully realized for several decades, suggesting that mitigating the risk of species extinction may be even more difficult than expected, the researchers argue.
Read the paper Dullinger, S., Essl, F., Rabitsch, W., Erb, K., Gingrich, S., Haberl, H., Hülber, K, Jarošík, W., Krausmann, F., Kühn, I., Pergl, P., Pyšek, P. and Hulme, P.E. 2013. Europe’s other debt crisis caused by the long legacy of future extinctions. Proc Natl Acad of Sci USA 10(1): 7342-7347.
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