Biodiversity Facts & Statistics

The Earth is home to different species and communities of species. Biodiversity is unique in all parts of the Earth. As the environmental conditions change from what millions of species adapted to, many are under the threat of extinction. Every species is valuable and in need of protection. These 26 biodiversity facts point out interesting aspects of our Earth’s biosystem alongside the species threatened by extinction.

26 Biodiversity Facts

Biodiversity Extinction
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The Facts About Extinction and Biodiversity

#1 - About one million plant and animal species face the threat of extinction1

Extinction is a major part of the history of our Earth. Species have come and gone, while others have thrived regardless of the changes. Unfortunately, human activities speed up the extinction rate we observe. When we encroach on habitats, pollute water bodies, disrupt migration paths, and so on, we not only impact biodiversity but, at worst, we threaten the ongoing existence of the creatures with whom we share our planet.

#2 - At least 680 vertebrate species have gone extinct since the 16th century1

Local varieties, species, wild populations, and domesticated plants and animals’ breeds deteriorate, shrink, or vanish. Species diversity and living organisms are becoming extinct.

#3 - The majority of native species in land-based habitats have fallen by a minimum of 20% since the 1900s1

#4 - Extinction threatens more than 40% of amphibians1

#5 - Nearly 33% of reef-forming corals face the threat of extinction1

#6 - Extinction threatens more than a third of all marine mammals1

This negative trend may continue even till 2050 and beyond. It will reduce only when we make transformative changes that affect land-use, exploitation of animals, and climate crises. In our different regions of the world, we should see a significant difference only once we significantly reduce the harm we cause to the environment and its impact on biodiversity.

Rate of Biodiversity Loss

#7 - By 2016, more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had gone extinct, and at least 1,000 more species remain threatened1

#8 - There has been a 68% average decline in the population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish between 1970 and 20162

These biodiversity facts show that life around us, our earth’s biodiversity, is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. Human activities and habits continue to degrade and destroy the earth, forest, wetlands and threaten our well-being. This WWF research initiative gives us some insight into how we can reverse the growth in biodiversity loss. They formed the resulting Bending the Curve Initiative to develop pioneering modeling that can halt and reverse terrestrial biodiversity loss.

The Impact of Humanity on Biodiversity

#9 - Human activities are overusing the earth’s bio-capacity by an estimated 56%2

Biodiversity facts show that the last 50 years transformed the world. And we can observe many of these changes without reading a report. The explosion in global trade, consumption, and human population growth, as well as ecosystem diversity, are changing everything around us. At this point, we are beyond the Earth’s bio-capacity. This will affect the Earth, its life forms, and its survival in the future.

#10 - Human activities have significantly altered three-quarters of land-based environments1

As humans continue to encroach on land resources, we send the Earth’s abundance downwards. We do this by expanding our cities into forest areas, cutting down trees, harvesting forests for food and medication, and so on.

This trend is less severe in regions where Indigenous Peoples and local communities reside. Many Indigenous tribes still manage the lands they live on with sustainable practices passed down for generations. Hence, there are fewer bush burnings, tree cutting, forest burning, or land degradation in these areas.

#11 - Human activities have significantly altered 66% of marine environments1

Biodiversity Loss - What and Where?

Biodiversity in Africa
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#12 - There are 8 million total estimated animal and plant species on Earth1

#13 - We can find an estimated one-fifth of all known species of mammals, birds, and plants in Africa3

The biodiversity facts show that Africa has a broad species diversity and is immensely rich in biodiversity. This eco-system includes wetlands, savannahs, coral reefs, tropical forests, marine and fresh-water habitats, and montane ecosystems. This biological diversity benefits many, from supporting traditional ways of life through sustainable tourism and the natural balance required to ensure Africa’s hotter lands provide food for people and animals.

#14 - The current observed extinction rate is 2.6 vertebrate species per 10,000 yearly3

Much of the global loss of biodiversity is due to the sum of anthropogenic actions. The Convention of Biological Diversity defines “biodiversity loss” as “the long-term or permanent qualitative or quantitative reduction in components of biodiversity and their potential to provide goods and services, to be measured at global, regional and national levels.”

A fossil record shows that on average, every one million years, one vertebrate species becomes extinct. However, at the current extinction rate, we may lose a lot more species than estimated. Choosing to practice sustainability will help make our climate suitable for most of these biodiverse species to survive.

#15 - The planet lost 100 million hectares of tropical forest from 1980 to 20001

Latin America lost about 42 million hectares of land to cattle ranching. And in south-east Asia, about 7.5 million hectares of land were used as plantations to produce palm oil, cleaning products, food, cosmetics, and so on. This trend varies from country to country and has caused a loss of ecosystem, primarily in the tropics.

#16 - The loss of wetlands is currently three times faster in percentage terms than forest loss1

Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity

Climate Change Biodiversity
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#17 - The distributions of 47% of land-based flightless mammals and almost a quarter of threatened birds may already have been negatively affected by climate change1

#18 - Climate change is the third leading cause of change in nature1

As the biodiversity facts above show, our Earth is experiencing rapid change. Climate change proves to be a significant contributor to this negative transition. Everything from global warming to disrupted seasons, changes in sea levels, and so on threaten our natural environment. Remember that the organisms around us evolved for millions of years to exist in a particular biosystem. As this system changes, they will struggle to survive. And we may, unfortunately, lose many of them forever.

#19 - A 2004 study showed that climate change could result in the extinction of more than a million terrestrial species in Africa in the next 50 years3

#20- Researchers estimate that climate change alone could cause the loss of over half of African bird and mammal species by 2100[ref]

We Could Lose Half of Africa's Biodiversity

We can find a wide range of animal, plant, and marine biodiversity in Africa. Unfortunately, these biodiversity facts show that the Earth may lose over half of them within the century. Researchers estimate that by 2100, we may record a loss of over half of African bird and mammal species. And a significant loss of plant species due to biodiversity loss. Current efforts towards preventing this outcome include watershed management, integrated coastal zone management, and setting up protected areas. We design these conservation efforts to help the continent protect and preserve its biodiversity.

#21 - Researchers expect an estimated 20%-30% decline in lake productivity to occur in Africa due to climate change by 2100[ref]

#22 - A 2011 study found that 19 species have gone extinct due to climate change3

Extinction rates are uncertain, but expert opinions predict that the extent of loss will increase due to our climate emergency. The UN encourages countries to establish sustainable processes to preserve their diverse species.

#23 - Climate change poses a threat to over 4161 species3

A significant number of species have gone extinct. And the climate emergency currently threatens about 4161 species. The current magnitude of the climate crisis will probably exceed several species’ abilities to survive and adapt to new environmental conditions. Thus leading to increased extinction rates. Around the world, we should be doing more to study and manage this trend to keep our biodiversity safe for a long time.

#24 - 29% of species predicted by the IUCN to be threatened by climate change are due to temperature extremes3

#25- 28% of species predicted by the IUCN to be threatened by climate change are due to drought3

Biodiversity: Projections for the future

#26 - Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems show that we will not meet 80% of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals concerning poverty, hunger, health, etc1

This report shows that the loss of biodiversity is not just an environmental issue. But also a developmental, economic, security, social, and moral issue. Before we can address all the causes of biodiversity, we must work to understand how our societal and economic structures play into the issue. Researchers continue to explore the intersection of human activity, our environment, and biodiversity around the world.

Decision-makers also work with data to create regulations and implement policies for conserving and sustaining nature. We can only achieve sustainability goals for 2030 and beyond through transformative changes across economic, social, political, and technological factors.

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2 WWF, Living Planet Report, 2020, Bending the Curve of Biodiversity Loss
3 Dejene, Sinatayehu. (2018). Impact of climate change on biodiversity and associated key ecosystem services in Africa: a systematic review. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. 4. 225-239. 10.1080/20964129.2018.1530054.
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