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      International trade drives biodiversity threats in developing nations

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          Abstract

          Human activities are causing Earth's sixth major extinction event-an accelerating decline of the world's stocks of biological diversity at rates 100 to 1,000 times pre-human levels. Historically, low-impact intrusion into species habitats arose from local demands for food, fuel and living space. However, in today's increasingly globalized economy, international trade chains accelerate habitat degradation far removed from the place of consumption. Although adverse effects of economic prosperity and economic inequality have been confirmed, the importance of international trade as a driver of threats to species is poorly understood. Here we show that a significant number of species are threatened as a result of international trade along complex routes, and that, in particular, consumers in developed countries cause threats to species through their demand of commodities that are ultimately produced in developing countries. We linked 25,000 Animalia species threat records from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List to more than 15,000 commodities produced in 187 countries and evaluated more than 5 billion supply chains in terms of their biodiversity impacts. Excluding invasive species, we found that 30% of global species threats are due to international trade. In many developed countries, the consumption of imported coffee, tea, sugar, textiles, fish and other manufactured items causes a biodiversity footprint that is larger abroad than at home. Our results emphasize the importance of examining biodiversity loss as a global systemic phenomenon, instead of looking at the degrading or polluting producers in isolation. We anticipate that our findings will facilitate better regulation, sustainable supply-chain certification and consumer product labelling.

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          Most cited references 18

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          The future of biodiversity.

          Recent extinction rates are 100 to 1000 times their pre-human levels in well-known, but taxonomically diverse groups from widely different environments. If all species currently deemed "threatened" become extinct in the next century, then future extinction rates will be 10 times recent rates. Some threatened species will survive the century, but many species not now threatened will succumb. Regions rich in species found only within them (endemics) dominate the global patterns of extinction. Although new technology provides details of habitat losses, estimates of future extinctions are hampered by our limited knowledge of which areas are rich in endemics.
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            Environmental Repercussions and the Economic Structure: An Input-Output Approach

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              Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008.

              Despite the emergence of regional climate policies, growth in global CO(2) emissions has remained strong. From 1990 to 2008 CO(2) emissions in developed countries (defined as countries with emission-reduction commitments in the Kyoto Protocol, Annex B) have stabilized, but emissions in developing countries (non-Annex B) have doubled. Some studies suggest that the stabilization of emissions in developed countries was partially because of growing imports from developing countries. To quantify the growth in emission transfers via international trade, we developed a trade-linked global database for CO(2) emissions covering 113 countries and 57 economic sectors from 1990 to 2008. We find that the emissions from the production of traded goods and services have increased from 4.3 Gt CO(2) in 1990 (20% of global emissions) to 7.8 Gt CO(2) in 2008 (26%). Most developed countries have increased their consumption-based emissions faster than their territorial emissions, and non-energy-intensive manufacturing had a key role in the emission transfers. The net emission transfers via international trade from developing to developed countries increased from 0.4 Gt CO(2) in 1990 to 1.6 Gt CO(2) in 2008, which exceeds the Kyoto Protocol emission reductions. Our results indicate that international trade is a significant factor in explaining the change in emissions in many countries, from both a production and consumption perspective. We suggest that countries monitor emission transfers via international trade, in addition to territorial emissions, to ensure progress toward stabilization of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                June 2012
                June 6 2012
                June 2012
                : 486
                : 7401
                : 109-112
                Article
                10.1038/nature11145
                22678290
                © 2012

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