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Better agricultural planning could prevent 88% of biodiversity loss, study finds

Better planning could save a lot of wildlife, according to results from a study published recently in Global Change Biology. It found that nearly 90 percent of the biodiversity that scientists expect will be lost to future agricultural expansion could be saved if more effective land-use planning directed this expansion to areas with the fewest species. For their study, researchers at German institutions including the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) looked at distributions and habitat information for almost 20,000 vertebrate species along with projections of agricultural intensification and spatial land-use optimization scenarios. They found that if agriculture expansion was spatially optimized through global coordination to areas with low biodiversity, 88 percent of the world’s expected future biodiversity losses could be avoided. If coordinated at the national level, their study indicates that number would be 61 percent. It found that 10 countries possessed the lion’s share of this potential, and could by themselves reduce the expected loss of the world’s biodiversity by 33 percent. “A few tropical countries including India, Brazil, or Indonesia would have by far the greatest leverage for making global agricultural production more sustainable,” study co-author Carsten Meyer, of iDiv and the University of Leipzig, said in a statement. Land cleared for an oil palm plantation abuts rainforest in Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia. The study states that these results imply “huge efficiency gains” are possible through international cooperation — but there are big caveats. The researchers write…

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