ExtinctionAndPopulation_102609

David Biello freaks out about a new study linking global trade to species extinction:

The primary culprit in at least 30 percent of such looming extinctions, according to a new analysis published in Nature on June 7? Global trade. By linking the list of threatened species prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to a list of some 15,000 globally traded commodities as well as more than 5 billion supply chains—i.e. the route that takes rubber from a tree to your car’s tire—the authors of the study revealed that Americans, Europeans and Japanese are largely eating, drinking and wearing the primary causes of the sixth mass extinction in the planet’s history. That’s because palm oil plantations in Indonesia, mining in Madagascar and forestry in Papua New Guinea are providing the fundamental inputs of the global economy at the expense of a long list of animals, plants, fungi and microbes.

Why you should care (aside from the mass death of fuzzy, adorable animals):

[T]his loss of biodiversity has a whole slew of impacts, according the majority of scientific research published in the last 20 years. Losing species means environments that are less productive for life as a whole, less stable, and more likely to change in function (bye bye clean water). In fact, this loss of biodiversity may be the single largest environmental change we humans are foisting on our home planet, outpacing even climate change.

(Chart by the Center for Biological Diversity)