Hotspots of biodiversity all over the world are threatened by the high demands of a globalized economy — and now we can clearly locate where on the planet US consumption is putting species at risk.
Researchers from Norway and Japan have created a map showing the world’s ecosystems — on land and in the sea — that are impacted by consumer demands in the US, but also the European Union, China, and Japan. The threats come from deforestation, agriculture, overfishing, and pollution, and are all linked to legal exports to those countries.
US consumption, in particular, hurts wildlife pretty much everywhere in the world — but some of the most affected areas are in Southeast Asia and its surrounding waters, where fishing and pollution are threatening species-rich ecosystems. The US also seems to have a big biodiversity footprint in Spain and Portugal, where many fish and bird species are at risk, the researchers say.
The study also pinpoints particular species and the threat posed by specific countries. For example, the researchers calculated that 2 percent of the risk faced by the stubfooted toad in Brazil is due to logging and wood-harvesting operations tied to US consumption.
The map, which was described in a study published yesterday in Nature Ecology & Evolution, was created using a global trade model and combining data on 6,803 vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species and the 166 threats they face that are attributable to human activity.
The goal of the map is to highlight the world areas that should be the focus of conservation efforts, according to the researchers. “Locating biodiversity threat hotspots driven by consumption of goods and services can help to connect conservationists, consumers, companies and governments in order to better target conservation actions,” the study says.