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In a Natural World, On a Living Planet

You are here on the cladogenetic tree m.jpg

Saving Nature – And Humans Along With It / April 2020

When Linnaeus published his study in 1758, he recognized about 20,000 species in existence around the world. By 2009, according to the Australian Biological Resources Study, that number had reached almost 2 million. (E.O.) Wilson and other scientists believe the total number of species on Earth, both known and undiscovered, could reach 8-9 million. Linnaeus intended to describe them all. Wilson long ago took up that mantle. A lofty goal, but spend time around Wilson and you get used to seemingly impossible ideas. He frames what we don’t know about our planet and what lives on it as a thrilling mystery, an opportunity to learn rather than a problem too daunting or, worse, too late to confront...

A Way Back / https://www.half-earthproject.org

Biodiversity Crisis

The biomass of terrestrial vegetation worldwide has halved over human history 3, with a corresponding loss of more than 20% of this realm’s original biodiversity 1. More than 70% of the Earth’s land surface has been altered by humans 1.

There have been over 700 vertebrate 1, and nearly 600 plant 4, extinctions recorded since the 16th Century, and many more species have likely gone extinct unnoticed 5.

Massive population declines that are the precursors to extinction have also occurred worldwide; since only 1970, more than 60% of all terrestrial vertebrate individuals have disappeared 6, such that there are now at least one million species threatened with extinction6 out of an estimated 7.3 – 10.0 million eukaryotic species on the planet 7.

The total global biomass of wild animals today is < 25% of what it was during the Late Pleistocene8, and even insect species appear to be in rapid decline in many parts of the world 9-13.

There is now less than 15% of the original wetland area that was present during the 18th Century 14, and over three-quarters of rivers more than 1000 km long no longer flow freely along their entire course 15.

Over two-thirds of ocean area has been compromised to some extent by human endeavour 16

Live coral cover on reefs has halved since the mid-19th Century 17, seagrass extent has been decreasing by 10% per decade over the last century 1, kelp forests have declined by nearly 40%18, and the biomass of large predatory fishes is now less than a third of what it was last century 19.

Of the estimated 0.17 Gt of biomass of terrestrial vertebrates on Earth today, most of this is represented by livestock (59%) and living human beings (36%) — only about 5% of this total biomass is taken up by wild mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians8.

Even our domesticated species are in decline — some 10% of domesticated breeds of mammals have become extinct in human history, with more than 1000 others threatened with extinction 20

Even cultivated plants are becoming threatened, with about 200 cultivated species threatened with extinction 21, and a global homogenisation of food crop species used to feed the world over the last 50 years 22. All this means that we are now without a doubt well within a sixth mass extinction event.

Next time someone you know argues that the natural world isn’t that poorly off, you can show them this rather depressing list of facts to the contrary.

CJA Bradshaw


1. Díaz et al. Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change. Science 366, eaax3100 (2019)

2. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. (IPBES Secretariat, Paris, France, 2019)

3. Erb et al. Unexpectedly large impact of forest management and grazing on global vegetation biomass. Nature 553, 73-76 (2018)

4. Humphreys et al. Global dataset shows geography and life form predict modern plant extinction and rediscovery. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 3, 1043-1047 (2019)

5. Tedesco et al. Estimating how many undescribed species have gone extinct. Conserv. Biol. 28, 1360-1370 (2014)

6. WWF. Living Planet Report 2016. (WWF, Gland, Switzerland, 2016)

7. Mora et al. How many species are there on Earth and in the ocean? PLoS Biol. 9, e1001127 (2011)

8. Bar-On et al. The biomass distribution on Earth. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115, 6506 (2018)

9. Bidau. Doomsday for insects? The alarming decline of insect populations around the world. Entomol. Ornithol. Herpetol. 7, 1000e1130 (2018)

10. Hallmann et al. More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS One 12, e0185809 (2017)

11. Lister & Garcia. Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115, E10397 (2018)

12. Powney et al. Widespread losses of pollinating insects in Britain. Nat. Comm. 10, 1018 (2019)

13.Forister et al. Declines in insect abundance and diversity: we know enough to act now. Conserv. Sci. Pract. 1, e80 (2019)

14. Davidson. How much wetland has the world lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland area. Mar. Freshw. Res. 65, 934-941 (2014)

15. Grill et al. Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers. Nature 569, 215-221 (2019)

16. Halpern et al. Patterns and emerging trends in global ocean health. PLoS One 10, e0117863 (2015)

17. Frieler et al. Limiting global warming to 2 °C is unlikely to save most coral reefs. Nat. Clim. Change 3, 165-170 (2013)

18. Krumhansl et al. Global patterns of kelp forest change over the past half-century. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113, 13785 (2016)

19. Christensen et al. A century of fish biomass decline in the ocean. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 512, 155-166 (2014)

20. FAO. The State of the World’s Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy, 2016)

21. Hammer & Khoshbakht. Towards a ‘red list’ for crop plant species. Genet. Resour. Crop Evol. 52, 249-265 (2005)

22. Khoury et al. Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 4001 (2014)


Living Planet Report 2018

We live in an age of rapid and unprecedented planetary change. Indeed, many scientists believe our ever-increasing consumption, and the resulting increased demand for energy, land and water, is driving a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. It’s the first time in the Earth’s history that a single species – Homo sapiens – has had such a powerful impact on the planet.

This rapid planetary change, referred to as the ‘Great Acceleration’, has brought many benefits to human society. Yet we now also understand that there are multiple connections between the overall rise in our health, wealth, food and security, the unequal distribution of these benefits and the declining state of the Earth’s natural systems. Nature, underpinned by biodiversity, provides a wealth of services, which form the building blocks of modern society; but both nature and biodiversity are disappearing at an alarming rate. Despite well-meaning attempts to stop this loss through global agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, we are failing; current targets and consequent actions amount, at best, to a managed decline. To achieve climate and sustainable development commitments, reversing the loss of nature and biodiversity is critical...

Tree of Life nmicrobiol201648-f1 via Nature.jpg

An Unseen World

The 'Tiny Little Ones'

Microbiomes full of untapped secrets

It's All Related

Connections & Communities


Tree of Life opensourcetreeoflife.jpg

Micro- to Macro- ... from the Tiny (as in Tiny Blue Green) 'Micro-Organisms' to the Largest 'Macro-Creatures'



Microscopic Diversity Across the Planet: the Oceans and Plankton

Everything in the ocean is connected, which means it has the potential to move around," says Chris Bowler, a National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) scientist at the Institut de Biologie de l'Ecole Normale Superieure (IBENS) in Paris and a co-senior author of the plankton study. "This makes it important to assemble everything on a global scale. Doing deep analysis also allows us to catch the rare organisms in the biosphere in addition to those that are more abundant."

"Our study focused on plankton because it's a major contributor to marine ecosystems in terms of biomass, abundance, and diversity," says co-senior author Lucie Zinger of IBENS. "All types of life have representatives in the plankton—bacteria, archaea, protists, animals and plants, as well as viruses. But the large majority of this diversity is invisible to the naked eye."

Biodiversity Topics / Wikipedia

Extinction Issues / GreenPolicy -- http://www.greenpolicy360.net/w/Extinction

Trillions of (micro) species -- https://cosmosmagazine.com/life-sciences/earth-home-trillion-species

Microbial 'new' Tree of Life -- http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/science/scientists-unveil-new-tree-of-life.html

Do Insects Count? Who Cares About Insects, Right? Wrong?


Saving Species, Notes from the Edge

The botanists’ last stand: The daring work of saving the last samples of dying species

Best Practices check sm.png

Save a Butterfly, Save a Species

https://www.greenpolicy360.net/w/All_Species_Day -- https://www.greenpolicy360.net/w/Extinction

California Pipevine Swallowtail Project butterflies.png

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Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Announced September 2015 / http://www.greenpolicy360.net/w/Tree_of_Life

The first draft of ‘Tree of Life’ data diagrams include 2.3 million species -- The goal of reconstructing the tree of life is one of the most daunting challenges in biology. The scope of the problem is immense... most species have yet to be described. Despite decades of effort and thousands of phylogenetic studies on diverse clades, we lack a comprehensive tree of life, or even a summary of our current knowledge. One reason for this shortcoming is lack of data...

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The ecologist's field guide to sequence-based identification of biodiversity

Keywords: DNA sequencing; metabarcoding; metagenomics; metatranscriptomics; molecular ecology; biodiversity

All Species Day

Nature was always present... It was participant, impetus, and catalyst. It was the riches that made nations wealthy and powerful, and over which their armies; it was the wildness our ancestors insisted on taming, the scourge that left them despairing, and the blessing that kept them alive. How and where and by what design people built their homes and businesses depended on natural conditions and endowments. Inspirations for what people wrote and painted, what they wore, and said to each other, how they planned their day and spent their leisure time, and what they chose as a livelihood all flowed from an organic setting. Nature shaped strategies in war and gave form to economics, and its wealth or privation determined that of people and their enterprises.

-- The Gulf
by Jack E. Davis

It's Our Planet, It's Our Day

This year's Earth Day is Protect Our Species and draws draw attention to rapid global destruction and reduction of the world's plant and wildlife populations.

"All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life. We must work together to protect endangered and threatened species."

• April 22nd, Earth Day / https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019

GreenPolicy360 Siterunner / Looking back to the first Earth Day, organizing and looking to the future

All Species projects build a sense of community while reestablishing our connection to the natural world.

GARY SNYDER, in his book "The Practice of the Wild", talks about riding in a pickup truck in Australia with an aborigine. As they were traveling along, the man was telling stories at an 'amazing pace, too fast for them to be told properly'. Snyder wonders why the hyperactive story-telling. He finally discovers that important knowledge of the man's tribe is recited as the tribe moves along in the bush. Each feature of the landscape relates to a specific story or part of a story.

At the speed of a moving pickup, of course, the stories had to be told faster....

All species day with homo sapien in Santa Fe .jpg

Steven Schmidt -- human species
Santa Fe, NM

With your GreenPolicy Siterunner in Santa Fe circa 1989 on All Species Day. Looking back and looking forward to the challenges of affirming and protecting diversity of life in the midst of the "Sixth Extinction"
Santa Fe - 'holy faith' in Spanish - was named in memory of the 'holy faith of St. Francis of Assisi', the patron saint of animals and ecology.


A tip of the hat to the first Catholic pope to choose to name himself after St. Francis, and to his encompassing Laudato Si eco-encyclical offered in 2015 as the Catholic Church sets forth a vision of green values and action.

Pope Francis on the Environment

Integral Ecology

Rights of Nature EarthLaw



Life in Its Diversity 360
Human species responsibility to preserve and protect

Bug eyes in the rainforest canopy Photo by Don Perry.jpg



Citizen Science
Planet Citizens, Planet Scientists

The Rainforest Canopy, "Cradle of Life"

Exploring the Rainforest, the Richest Biosphere</big>

SJS / GreenPolicy Siterunner:

January 2013

I want to say a few words about Don Perry, Dr. Perry, who swung in and posted a couple comments yesterday about climate change, global warming and its coming impacts.

Be aware, Don is not your standard scientist who has dwelt in academia, collecting accolades and plaudits for his lifetime of work and explorations of the bio-universe. Don has gone on from UCLA to literally change the way we see our world.

As I used to say about Don, when we were working together back when I lived in LA and he was starting his career that would revolutionize the science of tropical forest study, Don is unique in his field, he's a pioneer (and "bioneer"), he's an explorer, an inventor. Don invented new techniques and methods for ascending and studying the 'real jungle', up above far from LA's glam, and proceeded to enable and show us what the resplendent, amazing rainforest, the richest biosphere on earth, the canopy, was like and it was wonderful... first-ever pictures and reports and science from on high. I was privileged to help as his representative and we saw Don's visions reach audiences around the world as he opened eyes to the eco-wonders of the environment we live in and the world we came from long ago, that is, if you believe in evolution... Don was a "Jacques Cousteau of the Rainforest Canopy." I meant the words when I said them and still do. Don's pioneering work has been featured in Scientific American, National Geographic, Smithsonian, New York Sunday Times magazine, Life, Newsweek, Paris Match, Quick of Germany, Popular Science, and many more popular and scientific media.

I have to say that Don's career is one-of-a-kind, an unparalleled feat of brave, courageous ascents and creative imagination and engineering that followed...

Relational Reality by Charlene Spretnak

SJS / GreenPolicy360 Siterunner: "It's all connected, it's all related"


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