Washington, DC - A new and unprecedented scientific study released today reinforces the need for governments, private sector, and broad international community action to protect natural systems for the sake of humanity, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Unprecedented in its size and scope, the new Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report summarizes a five year, 1300 scientist examination of the state of the world's ecosystems and their impact on human well-being. It reveals that ecosystems - interacting complexes of plants, animals, and microorganisms - have changed more rapidly and extensively in the last 50 years than in any other period, primarily through human efforts to meet growing demand for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. The report warns that many ecosystems critical to human needs will face serious degradation over the next 50 years unless significant action is taken to protect them.
"This is really a scientific wake up call about the importance and urgency of conservation," said Carter Roberts, WWF chief conservation officer and COO. "The assessment removes any doubts that the quality of humanity's future is tied to our treatment of the natural world, even of ecosystems far away."
Recent experience demonstrates the kind of human dependence on healthy ecosystems highlighted throughout the report. During December's Tsunami, mangroves protected many sections of Indian Ocean coastline from greater devastation. Mangrove conservation efforts not only provided that vital protection, they also ensure a vital food supply by preserving the mangroves' role as nurseries for coral reef fish.
"The work we do every day is about finding solutions to the very issues the report says humanity must confront," added Roberts. "We have known for a long time that ecosystem processes that support biodiversity also support human well-being."
WWF field projects around the world directly benefit critical systems and illustrate ecosystem services highlighted by the report. A recent WWF project in Central America, for example, recently found that coffee farmers within one kilometer of tropical forests receive markedly higher pollination services from the nearby tropical forest than those located farther away. The growers yield 20 percent more coffee as a result of the proximity to the tropical forest, and their livelihood is improved.
"Ecosystems are capital assets," said Dr. Taylor Ricketts, Director of the WWF Conservation Science Program and MA contributor. "We often don't include them on our balance sheets, but if we did the services they supply would dwarf everything else in value. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment delivers this message loud and clear, reflecting the consensus of over 1,300 scientists that ecosystems support human life, and by harming them we harm ourselves. The sooner we realize this and behave accordingly, the better chance we have of meeting human needs sustainably and conserving the diversity of life on earth."