Today's biodiversity is the result of the environment decades ago. We're underestimating the cost to wildlife of today's environmental destruction because effects can take several generations. It's called extinction debt.

Future generations to pay for our mistakes: biodiversity loss doesn...

The biodiversity of Europe today is largely linked to environmental conditions decades ago, according to a new large-scale study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Looking at various social and economic conditions from the last hundred years, scientists found that today's European species were closely aligned to environmental impacts on the continent from 1900 and 1950 instead of more recent times. The findings imply that scientists may be underestimating the total decline in global biodiversity, while future generations will inherit a natural world of our making.

"The progressive impact of environmental degradation on the loss of global biodiversity is strongly linked to key socioeconomic indicators such as human population size, land use, and gross domestic product (GDP). However, species populations do not necessarily respond immediately to environmental degradation but might do so with a delay," the scientists write. This theory is known as 'extinction debt,' whereby it takes species several of their generations to show the full impact of habitat loss and other threats.

"Our results...suggest current commitments to stop biodiversity loss in the region are even more inadequate than currently appreciated," the researchers warn noting also that the global IUCN Red List "might be too optimistic." [emphasis mine]


Tags: extinction debt

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Good article - thank you Ruth!

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