8 extraordinary reasons we need to talk about... Life On Land 


While we’re losing ecosystems, we’re also gaining pandas: this mixed bag of facts shows that it’s possible to make positive changes.

1. Trees sustain life as we know it

Forests cover nearly 31% of the land on earth and are home to more than 80% of all land-based species. Right now, 13 million hectares of forest are being destroyed annually. Of the 8,300 animal species known to us, 8% are already extinct and a further 22% are endangered.

2. Let's talk about palm oil

In the last half-century, the island of Sumatra in Indonesia lost a staggering 85% of its forests to palm oil production and pulp plantations. The Sumatran Tiger lives in the last patches of forest and now numbers less than 400. Meanwhile in Borneo, palm oil is also threatening the existence of the pint-sized Bornean Pygmy Elephant. Only 1,500 remain.

3.Other ecosystems are disappearing

We lose 12 million hectares of land each year to drought and desertification. That’s 23 hectares per minute.


4. Can we fix this?

Yes, but at a price. The UN Forum on Forests Secretariat estimates the cost of achieving sustainable forest management globally at US$70-160 billion… annually. The Convention on Biological Diversity has estimated that $150-440 billion is needed (again, annually) to halt the loss of biodiversity by the mid-21st century.


5. A growth industry

However, it would be money well spent. Rather astonishingly, insects and other pollen-carriers are said to be worth more than $200 billion to the global economy each year, and 75% of major prescription drugs are derived from plants that would be threatened. Even more significantly, natural disasters brought about by human interference already cost more than $300 billion per year.

6. EATING YOUR GREENS

There are many ways you can help the fight for life on land. Reduce the amount of paper you use. Recycle paper, glass, plastic, metal and old electronics. Don’t use pesticides, avoid products tested on animals… and invest in some red wigglers. There are over 9,000 types of earth worm, but only seven have been identified as suitable for composting your household scraps. The red wiggler, or Eisenia fetida, is the most popular. A hermaphrodite with no eyes, no teeth and no lungs, the red wiggler does have a voracious appetite – eating up to half of its own body weight per day.

7. PROGRESS FOR PANDAS

Over the years, the panda has been something of a poster child for conservation. It’s the symbol of WWF, inspired by a giant panda who was living at London Zoo when the organization was founded in 1961. Its habitat has been under constant threat from human encroachment, but in recent years there’s been some good news for the long-suffering bear. In 2016, following a population growth of nearly 17% in ten years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature moved it from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on its list of species at risk of extinction.

8. And there’s more good news…

The Amazon, which houses half of the planet’s tropical forests and one tenth of the planet’s species, has been constantly under threat from deforestation. Last year, however, the Colombian government expanded Serranía de Chiribiquete National Park, home to over 200 species of fish, seven types of primate, giant otters, jaguars and lowland tapirs. It’s gone from 6.9 million to 10.6 million acres, making it the world’s largest national park inside a tropical rainforest.

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