Naturalists are sounding the alarm about species loss


In the “Berlin Declaration”, German naturalists lament the dramatic loss of biodiversity. The scientists call on the German government to finally take action against this during its G7 presidency.

Bernhard Misuf, Klement Tockner and Johannes Vogel – and a model of the extinct passenger pigeon

Bernhard Misof, Klement Tockner and Johannes Vogel brought the model of an animal to the Natural History Museum in Berlin that extinct long ago:  The passenger pigeon, says Vogel, head of the Natural History Museum, is said to have darkened the sky in the USA in the past, the populations were so strong when the swarms rose into the air. But the passenger pigeon disappeared more than a hundred years ago, mercilessly hunted by humans. Just a symbol of the loss of species that the three researchers lament.

Without countermeasures, the world will lose millions of species

The three and more than 30 other scientists, including the well-known virologist Christian Drosten, made a dramatic appeal to the public. In their “Berlin Declaration” it says, among other things: “Without quick, far-reaching and comprehensive measures, we run the risk that our earth will lose a million species in the next few decades and that the average global temperature will rise by three degrees.”  

A hornet gets honey from a honeycomb. More and more insect species are threatened with extinction

Klement Tockner from the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung in Frankfurt am Main added at the presentation in Berlin: “We can't imagine what will happen in the next 20 to 50 years if we don't take countermeasures. And the three biggest crises are: That Failure to achieve the Paris climate target. Second: The increase in extreme weather, which of course is closely related to global warming. And the third is the loss of biological diversity.”

Almost all sturgeon species are threatened with extinction

In their explanation, the scientists use concrete examples to describe how far this has already progressed: “From 1970 to 2012, the populations of large, well-known freshwater species such as river dolphins, sturgeons or crocodiles fell by 88 percent worldwide. So 24 of the 26 Sturgeon species threatened with extinction.” Bernhard Misof, from the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change in Bonn, tells how his grandfather showed him the many different insect species.

Misof: “And I can only tell my children that, not show it anymore. That means: Feel it in one generation and we see what's changing around us. And we get into a situation where we talk about what we used to know, but we can't show it.”

Germany should hold the G7 Presidency for Use protection of species

The reason for the declaration is, among other things, the memory of the first World Nature Summit, which took place 30 years ago in the spring of 1992 in Rome and formulated many demands for the protection of species. However, not much has happened since then. The next World Summit on Nature has recently been postponed several times due to the pandemic and is now scheduled to take place in Kunming, China in August.

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Can we stop the extinction of species?

The central requirement there is to protect 30 percent of land and sea areas by 2030. It is doubtful whether this will happen. But even before that, the scientists are calling on those responsible to finally act. Germany must use the current presidency within the group of states of the G7 to demand more species protection.

And that means above all: more money. For afforestation, protected areas, for the restoration of bogs. 800 million euros are currently available from Germany for this purpose, and the new government has promised to increase the sum to two billion euros. The scientists are calling for an increase to eight billion euros per year as quickly as possible.

Species protection is still fighting for attention 

But the three researchers also know that it is difficult for species protection to be heard To provide. All attention is focused on the issue of climate change, closely related to the loss of species. According to Tockner, this is because heavy rain, heat and flooding are felt all over the world, but the loss of species less.

For climate protection reasons, but also to convert the energy supply after the Russian attack on Ukraine and to do without Russian gas and oil, the German government of SPD, Greens and FDP is also relying on the massive expansion of wind and solar power . This requires new areas, and this often leads to conflicts with nature conservation.

A flock of starlings amid wind turbines. Conflicts between nature conservation and climate protection are becoming more and more common

Johannes Vogel says: “This war is bad and cruel, and of course we condemn the aggression that is taking place here. But if you look at human history, then At some point, wars will stop again. And then there will be peace again. The developments that have started here, the change in climate, but especially the loss of species, cannot be reversed. This is a loss that will affect us for all eternity will.” 

Species protection is the best climate protection 

The researchers underline how important nature and species protection is for climate protection with this number: The three most important marine habitats – Seagrass, mangroves and swamps – together store more than 30 gigatonnes of carbon. That is three times the amount that is emitted each year in China alone. Species protection is actually the best form of climate protection. Actually.