The accelerating disappearance of wild plants and animals is a fundamental threat to the survival of humankind, warns the chair of a new global organisation.
"we are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind."
The incremental loss of Amazon rainforest, for example, "may seem small with shortsighted perspective" but will eventually "accumulate to cause a larger, more important change," he said. Experts warn that ongoing climate change, combined with land use change and fires, "could cause much of the Amazon forest to transform abruptly to more open, dry-adapted ecosystems, threatening the region's enormous biodiversity and priceless services," he added.
Some scientists have termed this the "sixth great extinction episode" in Earth's history, according to Dr. Zakri, noting that the loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals.
Causes of genetic erosion in domestic animals are the lack of appreciation of the value of indigenous breeds and their importance in niche adaptation, incentives to introduce exotic and more uniform breeds from industrialised countries, and product-focused selection.
Among crops, meanwhile, about 75 per cent of genetic diversity was lost in the last century as farmers worldwide switched to genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties and abandoned multiple local varieties.
There are 30,000 edible plant species but only 30 crops account for 95% of human food energy, the bulk of which (60%) comes down to rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.
"I would argue, though, that advancing towards equity and sustainable development requires us to go beyond. We need to meet the fundamental challenge of decoupling economic growth from natural resource consumption, which is forecast to triple by 2050 unless humanity can find effective ways to 'do more and better with less.' There are no simple blueprints for addressing a challenge as vast and complex as this but it's imperative we commit to that idea.