Half of all species facing extinction

Bechstein bat The threatened Bechstein's bat (© Marko König)

Feb 28, 2017

The worldwide loss of biodiversity is accelerating at an alarming rate. Biologists at a conference hosted by the Vatican warn that half of all species could disappear by the end of this century.

“The living fabric of the world ... is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” wrote the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on its website. The Catholic Church under Pope Francis has made the environment a top priority.

One in five species currently faces extinction. While the threat to tigers, chimpanzees, rhinos and other charismatic wildlife occasionally makes it into the media, the eradication of most species goes unnoticed, experts warned at the Biological Extinction Workshop hosted by the Vatican.

“Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate,” said biologist Paul Ehrlich, of Stanford University in California.

Scientists are debating how biodiversity loss can be combated most effectively. Topics covered include population control, the responsibility of the Western world, and urgently needed changes in our lifestyle.