September 28, 2010 / 9:03 AM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX-The world's rising loss of species and its costs

Sept 28 (Reuters) - The United Nations says the rate of animal and plant extinctions is up to 1,000 times higher than inferred in the fossil record, a biological crisis that is the worst since dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago.

U.N. talks in Japan next month aim to set 2020 targets to put the brakes on the loss of species. Scientists say the world needs to act to avoid disasters such as the drying out of the Amazon and ocean dead-zones caused by the build-up of fertilisers.

The United Nations says a growing human population, set to hit 9 billion by 2050, needs nature more than ever to ensure we can grow crops, breathe clean air, drink clean water and source new medicines from forests.

Following are some facts on species loss and costs.

— Close to 30 countries have lost 90 per cent of their original forest cover. But the rate of deforestation is slowing. In the past decade, the annual loss of forests has averaged 13 million hectares (32 million acres), about the size of England, compared with 16 million hectares (39 million acres) a year during the 1990s.

— Coral reefs in the Caribbean have declined by 80 per cent and globally 30 per cent of mangroves have been lost in the past two decades.

— The IUCN’s Red List of threatened species says 22 percent of the world’s mammals are threatened and at risk of extinction.

Nearly a third of amphibians face the same threat, one in eight birds, 27 percent of reef-building corals, and 28 percent of conifers.

— About a billion people rely on coral reefs and mangroves, vital fish nurseries that replenish fish stocks, a main source of protein. But rising ocean acidification linked to climate change and rising sea temperatures are damaging reefs. Over-fishing and clearing of mangroves is exacerbating the threat to livelihoods.

— The United Nations Environment Programme says annual losses from deforestation and degradation are estimated at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion. Yet this could be tackled with annual investment of $45 billion.

— A study by British-based consultancy TruCost this year said the world’s top 3,000 listed companies are estimated to cause environmental damage of about $2.2 trillion a year.

— A separate UNEP study says schemes that promote certification of biodiversity-friendly agricultural products could create a market worth $210 billion by 2020 up from $40 billion in 2008. (Writing by David Fogarty)

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