India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity: WWF

India’s soil biodiversity is in grave peril, according to the Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas prepared by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The WWF’s ‘risk index’ for the globe — indicating threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change — shows India among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk. Coloured red on the Atlas, these include Pakistan, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America.

Highlights of the report:

Global wildlife population shrank by 60% between 1970 and 2014.

Declines are worst in the tropics, according to the data, as South and Central America saw an 89% decrease. Also, freshwater species saw an 83% drop, threatened by factors including overfishing, pollution and climate change.

The report estimates that only a quarter of the world’s land is untouched by humans, who are increasing food production and use of natural resources.

Since 1960, the global ecological footprint has increased by more than 190%. Globally, the extent of wetlands was estimated to have declined by 87% since 1970.

The two key drivers of biodiversity loss were the over exploitation of natural resources and agriculture.

 Threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators:

A key aspect of this year’s report is the threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators.

Soil biodiversity encompasses the presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).

The report notes that India’s soil biodiversity is in grave peril. The WWF’s ‘risk index’ for the globe — indicating threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change — shows India among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk.

To address these challenges, the WWF suggests three necessary steps: “clearly specifying a goal for biodiversity recovery; developing a set of measurable and relevant indicators of progress; and agreeing on a suite of actions that can collectively achieve the goal in the required time frame.”

The WWF has called for an international treaty, modelled on the Paris climate agreement, to be drafted to protect wildlife and reverse human impacts on nature.

The current efforts to protect the natural world are not keeping up with the speed of man-made destruction, and that the world is heading for an “ecological credit crunch” far worse than the current financial crisis because humans are overusing the natural resources of the planet.

This trend will continue unless human beings learn to minimise the use of resources and internalise the benefits of recycling/reuse. The nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life. It’s bigger than that. There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous planet with a destabilised climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all.

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