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Recent reports have warned that the quest to find much needed renewable energy could in fact harm the Earth’s biodiversity. The production of renewable energy, for example, requires metals and other materials which are mined. Researchers earlier this week mapped areas around more than 60,000 mining properties to assess whether they overlapped with biodiversity conservation sites.
The results showed that mining potentially influences 50m sq km of the Earth’s land surface, and that 82 percent of mining areas produce materials used in renewable energy production.
Furthermore, they found eight percent of these mining areas overlapped with regions designated as protected areas, seven percent with key biodiversity areas, and 16 percent with remaining wilderness.
Experts warn that such destruction of biodiverse landscapes tips the basic balance of many lifeforms on the planet.
As Bonnie Warring, senior Lecturer at the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told Express.co.uk, once the Earth’s biodiversity is gone it is impossible for it to return.
She explained: “What concerns me most as a biologist is the possibility of massive extinctions of other species in our environment.
“We evolved in a biodiverse world and if we lost the species that surround us, species that are the source of so many of our medicines, species that are the source of food, species that contain genetic resources with as yet unknown potential to face human problems.
“And then there’s the cultural and aesthetic values of our natural communities, if we lose that biodiversity, it’s not coming back.
“This means that every generation of people after us will inherit a less diverse world; and so the decisions we make today are going to echo down to every generation after us.
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“It’s really up to us to make sure that our planet is still habitable for the plants and animals that we share it with because we know our well-being depends on the wellbeing of natural environments and we are on a trajectory towards a future in which that natural environment is much less diverse.
“If we make decisions that negatively impact biodiversity we can’t come back from that and every generation after us feels those effects.”
Ultimately, a destroyed and subsequently lost biodiversity means a reduced ecosystem and an immediate danger to food security.
It is something that ties directly in with global warming, as many regions become uninhabitable for plants and animals which translates to decreased choices, for example, in food sources.
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In order to curtail such devastating results, scientists are currently genetically engineering crops in case they become extinct as a result of rising temperatures, or to make them more adaptable in the future.
However, in order to do this, researchers depend on genetic resources from wild relatives of our current crops.
Dr Warring says this again highlights the fragility of our world and how much we depend on biodiversity, as if crops are lost now there is no way to replicate them in the future.
Much of the world’s biodiversity has already been lost.
Since 1990, it is estimated that some 420 million hectares of forest have been destroyed to make way for other land uses.
The rate of deforestation has decreased in the past three decades, however.
Although forestry is still under severe threat, and the area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990.
Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation and forest fragmentation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity.
With the additional reports of a dent to biodiversity through progress within renewable energy projects, experts now say strategic planning is needed to ensure threats to biodiversity do not surpass the threats averted by climate change mitigation and any effort to slow fossil fuel extraction and use.
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