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90% of the world’s animal species habitats to be lost to agriculture by 2050

As the word’s population rises, so too does the demand for material and basic needs such as food and housing. And thus, more and more of each is being made – but there lies the problem, as scientists fear that 90% of the world’s animal species could lose their habitats to agriculture by the year 2050.

David Williams at the University of Leeds, UK, had designed a model along with his colleagues that projected the development and inherent expansion of agriculture in the future, based on present trends and data. What they found was that if things continue on as they are, we could be looking at a total wiping out of 90% of animal species habitats by the year 2050 – the same year many countries are aiming for to cut back their greenhouse emission release to net zero.

20,000 terrestrial mammals, amphibians and birds will be affected, they project. Their direct projects state that well over 17,000 species will lose large and very valuable portions of their habitats by 2050, which could lead to their endangerment, and in some cases even their extinction.

“We need to produce a huge amount of food over the coming decades,” Williams stated, as a cause of the consistently growing population. “Fundamentally, you need to put a lot of calories into a cow to get a calorie of cow to eat.”

What this means, is that more land will be needed in order to feed more cows/grow more crops as demand will gradually grow, in a way that will be impossible to accommodate without expanding agricultural territories into other species habitats. Those species with niche requirements will be most in danger, as they rely most heavily on the stability of their environments.

Such a tragedy can be avoided through what would be called “conventional” means, such as establishing more protected areas for species that require them. This isn’t a solution that can protect every species and their habitats, however. Forests are thought to be the most in danger at the moment, which doesn’t bode well for the pressing issue of climate change.

It’s been further projected that if things carry on as they are, the losses of habitats will be particularly bad in Sub-Saharan Africa. Particularly in the Rift Valley and equatorial West Africa. Other places in especial risk of habitat loss include such places as the Atlantic Rainforest in Latin America, and several places in South-Eastern Asia.

The researchers had made tests of many possible future variations that could lead to the omission of disaster, and what they found was that much of the habitat destruction could be omitted with simple dietary changes. The reduction of food waste, along with the gradual transition towards a more plant-based diet may very well be a solution – which in today’s more vegan-friendly society, may not be such an impossible task as it once may have been considered.

Andrew Balmford at the University of Cambridge said that such a dietary transition may support not only the wildlife and biodiversity of species, but also the battle against a changing climate.

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