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NatureScience

Invasive Species, Habitat Loss Threaten to Extinguish Life in Oceania

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It is estimated that man has been in Oceania for up to 125,000 years. The land was there before man. And for a long time a balance has been found between man and nature. Perhaps that balance was achieved because man and nature were not separate entities, but one and the same. However, in the recent past, that balance has been disturbed by population and consumption. Man became an invader rather than an aboriginal. And with that, habit loss for other species has been a concern. And now life isn’t what it used to be in Oceania.

It is such an invasion, not just by humans, but species of both flora and fauna that threatens aboriginal life in Oceania. A new study, which was published in the international journal Conservation Biology expresses the need for governments to act quickly in order to halt the loss of biodiversity and the extinction of species.

The study, which is the first comprehensive review of more than 24,000 scientific publications related to conservation in the Oceanic region, reveals the sad story of habitat destruction and species loss. It also offers a portrait of deficiencies and opportunities of regional and global governments as well as action that can be taken in order to front this mounting problem.

“Earth is experiencing its sixth great extinction event and the new report reveals that this threat is advancing on six major fronts,” says the report’s lead author, Professor Richard Kingsford of the University of New South Wales.

Oceania is notorious for owning one of the world’s worst extinction records. And the loss of species will continue unless there is a “serious changes to the way we conserve our environments and dependent organisms,” says Kingsford.

Humankind if a major contributing factor to such tragedy. The amazing natural environment in that region of the world is being destroyed by habitat loss and degradation, climate change, over-exploitation and pollution. Invasive species and wildlife disease also play a role in the extinguishment of life.

“Many people are just beginning to understand the full extent of these problems in terms of land-clearing, degradation of rivers, pest species and overfishing,” says Professor Kingsford. “Climate change is a very important issue but by no means the only threat to biodiversity. The biggest problem seems to be that the policy challenges are just not being taken up by governments. Conservation policies are just seen as a problem for the economy.”

Conservation has been pushed even farther under the bed of the global economic crisis. Despite the lack of attention given to conservation, Kinsford’s team has not lost hope. For each of the major threats to biodiversity and conservation, the team has proposed between three and five specific policy recommendations that should be adopted by governments around the region.

Conservation is particularly important now because of the effects that human population has on the environment. Populations in the region are predicted to increase significantly by 2050; for example Australia 35%; New Zealand 25%; Papua New Guinea 76%; New Caledonia 49%.

And with increased populations comes an increase in rubber-soled footprints. “The burden on the environment is going to get worse unless we are a lot smarter about reducing our footprint on the planet or the human population,” says Professor Kingsford.

The threat to the environment is real. And for too long humankind has looked complacently on. Humankind has sat and watched while the earth around them has deteriorated. Why? Because it isn’t happening to them. But whit if the threat were to humankind’s way of life? Would there be a different response?

The balance that once existed needs to be resurrected. “Unless we get this equation right, future generations will surely be paying more in terms of quality of life and the environment we live in,”says Professor Kingsford.

To many ancient peoples, humankind was not apart from nature, but a part of nature. And while we have come to view ourselves otherwise, let us not forget that, in the end, extinction of fauna includes us.




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