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Biodiversity is defined as "The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat" (1). High biodiversity across animal and plant species is absolutely essential for the stability of ecosystems and food chains (2). However, climate change may threaten these relationships. With warming temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, and the mass urbanization of our lands, many species are being driven to extinction  (2,3). These effects are now happening faster than many species can adapt (4). Moreover, it is becoming increasingly difficult for species to escape uninhabitable environments due to widespread habitat destruction (2,4). Early estimates suggested that between 15 and 37% of all species on Earth could be severely endangered or extinct by 2050, due to the effects of climate change (5). More recently, a global biodiversity report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found that at least 25% of the species studied were at least threatened - this correlates to about 1 million species facing extinction (2).

Canada is facing declines in biodiversity from climate change too. A 2017 WWF report found that half of all vertebrate species in Canada are declining, and half of those have lost almost 80% of their population since 1970 (6). Further, fish species have declined by 20%, amphibian and reptile populations by 34%, and birds in the Canadian prairies by 55%, primarily as a result of habitat loss (6). The Species at Risk Act, adopted in 2002, aims to prevent extinction of wildlife species; however, currently, funds for protection are limited and protection measures must be unevenly distributed to species (7). This has lead to fears that only economically valuable species such as fish or bees will be protected, while populations of ecologically important species will be left to dwindle (7).

The evidence above shows that human activity is endangering many species, in Canada and around the world.  Stable natural food chains and ecosystems rely on a diverse species pool – rapid extinctions have the potential to collapse these  systems (3). Moreover, biodiversity is a vital aspect in our survival as a species: we rely on various species of plants and animals for food; we obtain ingredients for many everyday objects (including shampoos, toothpastes, and medicines) from biological sources; and many people rely on areas of great biodiversity such as coral reefs and jungles for their financial stability . Declining biodiversity is a threat to our environment, our health, and our ways of life (2).

To find out how wildlife populations are being preserved, in Canada and around the world, read our Conservation resource!

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