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Unanimous agreement among scientists: Earth to suffer major loss in species

The thylacine, the dodo, the great auk, the passenger pigeon, the golden toad: these species have become symbols of extinction. But they are only the tip of the recent extinction crisis, and according to a survey of 583 conservation scientists, they are only the beginning. In a new survey in Conservation Biology, 99.5 percent of conservation scientists said a serious loss in biodiversity was either 'likely', 'very likely', or 'virtually certain'. The prediction of a significant loss of species is not surprising—scientists have been warning for decades that if global society continues with business as usual the world will suffer from mass extinction—what is perhaps surprising is the practically unanimous expectation that a global biodiversity decline will occur.

"Understanding the degree of consensus within the scientific community will help policy makers to interpret scientific advice, improving the likelihood of successful of conservation initiatives," said study author Murray Rudd with the University of York. "The extremely high level of consensus demonstrated by these results underlines the urgency of preventing further damage to the natural world."

In addition, nearly 80 percent of respondents agreed that it was 'virtually certain' that human activities were accelerating species loss. Deforestation, habitat loss, climate change, pollution, overexploitation for food or medicine, disease, and invasive species are among a few of the big drivers of biodiversity decline worldwide.

According to the survey, tropical coral reefs are the most likely to see extinctions. Eighty-eight percent of respondents familiar with coral reefs—the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on Earth—predicted that a serious loss was 'very likely' or 'virtually certain'. While coral reefs are suffering from pollution and overfishing, perhaps the most drastic impact is the ongoing rise of greenhouse gas emissions. Ocean acidification from rising carbon levels hurts a coral reef's ability to calcify, imperiling the ecosystem. In addition, rising sea temperatures and sea levels due to climate can cause coral bleaching, which has devastated whole reef systems. more

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