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'Loss of biodiversity rivals climate change impact'

United States America,Environment/Wildlife, Thu, 03 May 2012 IANS

Washington, May 3 (IANS) Loss of biodiversity seems to affect ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, says a new study.


The study is the first comprehensive effort to directly compare the impact of biodiversity loss to the anticipated effects of a host of other human-caused environmental changes.


"Loss of biological diversity due to species extinctions is going to have major impacts on our planet, and we better prepare ourselves to deal with them," said University of Michigan ecologist Bradley Cardinale, the study's co-author, the journal Nature reports.


"These extinctions may well rank as one of the top five drivers of global change," said Cardinale, an assistant professor at Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment.


Studies over the last two decades have demonstrated that more biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive, according to a Michigan statement.


As a result, there has been growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions -- due to habitat loss, over-harvesting and other human-caused environmental changes -- could reduce nature's ability to provide goods and services like food, clean water and a stable climate.


But until now, it has been unclear how biodiversity losses stack up against other human-caused environmental changes that affect ecosystem health and productivity.


"Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors," said biologist David Hooper of Western Washington University, who led the study.


"Our new results show that future loss of species has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as global warming and pollution," said Hooper.


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