Tackling biodiversity loss too urgent to be left to future generations

Published by Niall Sargent on

February 20th, 2019

Biodiversity decline is too pressing an issue to be left to future generations to halt as habitats show increasing signs of deterioration, the head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has warned.

Speaking this morning at the National Biodiversity Conference, Dr Ciaran O’Keefe said that we have to wake up to the fact that biodiversity decline is already impacting a range of species and habitats here at home in Ireland.

Dr O’Keefe said that it is now clear that many species are now in danger on our island and the issue of biodiversity decline is “not just over there in some rainforest [or] on some icecap”.

He pointed to the examples of increasing stresses on the likes of the freshwater pearl mussel, curlew and corncrake, with further worrying declines in grasslands, forests and peatlands habitats.

Writing in The Irish Times this week, the Director of the National Biodiversity Data Centre Dr Liam Lysaght said that one in every four of the 3,000 species that have undergone a red-list conservation assessment is threatened with extinction in Ireland.

Over 90 per cent of 58 listed habitats in Ireland have an ‘inadequate’ or ‘bad’ status and just over half of the 61 European protected species in Ireland have a ‘favourable’ conservation status.

Dr O’Keefe said that many people are struggling to recognise the problem as there is rarely a “jenga tower” moment “where life begins to collapse”.

Biodiversity decline is a more “insidious loss” of species and habitats over a longer period of time “that we might not spot” right away, he said.

“Butterflies and bumblebees are getting scarcer over a number of years. That really has to worry us,” he said. “We need to halt biodiversity loss in our own lives, not our children’s, lives or our grandchildren’s lives.”

Broadcaster and journalist Ella McSweeney, who gave a keynote address at the conference, focused on the importance of public engagement and the need for experts to ask “how can people be helped & nudged to engage more”.

“Most people don’t know or understand what the word biodiversity means,” she said, before playing a chorus of birdsong of the various species under serious threat of extinction in Ireland.

A report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London released last October found that 60 per cent of the world’s large animals had disappeared since the 1970s.

Earlier this month, a paper in the journal Biological Conservation found that scientists are currently seeing rapid rates of decline in insect populations worldwide.

Up to 40 per cent of insect species, including species of bees and butterflies, may be extinct in the coming decades, the study warned.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London