Terrestrial ecosystems are fragile. If they become unbalanced, they impact negatively on the global climate and force many people into hunger and poverty.
Healthy forests, soil, rivers, lakes and mountains are habitats and also maintain important cycles. Every year 7.6 million hectares of forest are destroyed, which is about the size of Ireland. Non-sustainable agriculture causes huge tracts of land to become unfertile every year. Species diversity is dwindling at a terrifying pace. Animals are losing their natural habitats as a result of environmental destruction, or are falling prey to illegal hunters. Deserts are expanding and alien plant species are forcing out indigenous flora in many areas.
What must be done?
Terrestrial ecosystems already destroyed must be restored, and those that are still intact must be protected. Land and forests around the world must be managed sustainably. Many countries have realised how serious the consequences of forest destruction are, and are working to protect these resources. But their efforts are not enough. Developing countries, where wood is often still the only source of energy, must shift to renewable energy.
People must urgently put a stop to the loss of biological diversity, for instance by taking more rigorous action against poachers, focusing more on sustainable agriculture and preventing the spread of invasive species. Above all, national and local policies must take more account of the imperatives of protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, and all actors, also at international level, must invest more in achieving this goal.
Facts and figures
- Plants make up 80 per cent of our food.
- Forests cover 30 per cent of the world’s landmass and are home to 80 per cent of all flora and fauna.
- More than 23,000 plant, fungus and animal species were extremely endangered in 2015.
- More than 50 per cent of farmland is now affected by moderate or serious degradation.
- Every minute 23 hectares of land are lost as a result of drought or desertification.