The current biodiversity extinction event: Scenarios for mitigation and recovery

  • Novacek M
  • Cleland E
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The current massive degradation of habitat and extinction of species is taking place on a catastrophically short time scale, and their effects will fundamentally reset the future evolution of the planet's biota. The fossil record suggests that recovery of global ecosystems has required millions or even tens of millions of years. Thus, intervention by humans, the very agents of the current environmental crisis, is required for any possibility of short-term recovery or maintenance of the biota. Many current recovery efforts have deficiencies, including insufficient information on the diversity and distribution of species, ecological processes, and magnitude and interaction of threats to biodiversity (pollution, overharvesting, climate change, disruption of biogeochemical cycles, introduced or invasive species, habitat loss and fragmentation through land use, disruption of community structure in habitats, and others). A much greater and more urgently applied investment to address these deficiencies is obviously warranted. Conservation and restoration in human-dominated ecosystems must strengthen connections between human activities, such as agricultural or harvesting practices, and relevant research generated in the biological, earth, and atmospheric sciences. Certain threats to biodiversity require intensive international cooperation and input from the scientific community to mitigate their harmful effects, including climate change and alteration of global biogeochemical cycles. In a world already transformed by human activity, the connection between humans and the ecosystems they depend on must frame any strategy for the recovery of the biota.

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  • M. J. Novacek

  • E. E. Cleland

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