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New environmental warning for the tropics: biodiversity collapse

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A new study into the impact of climate change upon the animal world sends out a warning. This is that time is running out in the tropics, with scientists warning of a global biodiversity collapse, reported Digital Journal (Canada).

The stark warning about a global biodiversity collapse and this collapse likely to happen in the near future, unless humanity takes urgent action, comes from Lancaster University. The researchers contend that governments need to act quickly in order to reverse species loss in the tropics. The tropics are a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator.

The study is billed as the most detailed survey into the state of the world's most diverse tropical ecosystems: tropical forests, savannas, lakes and rivers, and coral reefs. The tropics make up around 40 percent of our planet and they are home to over three-quarters of all species. Among these are almost all of the planet's shallow-water corals.

Also found within the tropics are over 90 percent of the world's bird species. Many of these species are not found anywhere else (this is termed species endemism: the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, like an island, nation, country). Furthermore, there are estimated to be millions of species yet unknown to science.

Coral reefs provide fish resources and coastal protection for up to 200 million people.
In terms of regions, important biodiversity ecosystems are the El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico, Costa Rican and Nicaraguan rainforests, Amazon Rainforest territories of several South American countries. In addition, the Madagascar dry deciduous forests, the Waterberg Biosphere of South Africa, and eastern Madagascar rainforests, are also of importance.

Explaining the new research, Dr. Benoit Guénard, who led the study, states: "At the current rate of species description -- about 20,000 new species per year -- it can be estimated that at least 300 years will be necessary to catalog biodiversity."

The main challenges to species diversity come from the twin-problems of local human pressures, such as over fishing or selective logging; and droughts or heatwaves which arise due to climate change. Whilst much damage has already been done, the researchers state that actions can be taken to protect many species. Measures required include supporting sustainable development plus targeted conservation interventions designed to preserve and restore the tropical habitats.
The new environmental research has been published in the science journal Nature. The research paper is titled "The future of hyperdiverse tropical ecosystems."

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