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No. 6, April 15, 2011

In This Issue:

Reef Madness: Overpopulation Hurting Ocean Ecosystems
Humans Reduce Species' Ability to Cope with Climate Change
"Million for a Billion" -- Take Action

Reef Madness: Overpopulation Hurting Ocean Ecosytems

Evidence continues to mount about the environmental consequences of adding more and more people to our planet. A study released earlier this month highlights the benefits of biodiversity in coral reefs and draws a direct connection between their decline and unsustainable human population growth.

Using data on 2,000 coral reefs in 49 countries, the study examined the ability of these critical ecosystems to produce "standing biomass" (essentially, quantity of life) and provide ecosystem services for humans. As reported in Science Daily, the study found that 75 percent of the world's coral reefs are near human settlements and threatened with decline due to overfishing, pollution, coastal development and other human impacts, as 82 percent of countries with coral reefs are expected to double their populations in the next 50 to 100 years. "We find again and again that our global population cannot be sustainably supported without the deterioration of the world's natural resources and the resulting backlash on human welfare," one of the study's authors said. "Thus, identifying socially and politically acceptable solutions to curb human population growth is at the core of finding ultimate solutions for the protection of biodiversity and the prevention of unnecessary hardship."

That's exactly why the Center for Biological Diversity is involved with this critical issue (and fighting to protect corals) and it speaks to the importance of having your help in spreading the word.

Humans Reduce Other Species' Ability to Cope With Climate Change

Here's another story that caught our eye: In early April, The New York Times reported on the ongoing extinction crisis and a new study confirming that the Earth appears to be entering the sixth mass extinction event in its history. In previous events, 75 percent or more of all species were wiped out over millions of years, but the current event will likely play out in just a few centuries or millennia. A team of scientists at UC-Berkeley analyzed fossil records to determine that the extinction rate has already been greatly accelerated by such human impacts as overhunting, overfishing and deforestation, while climate change threatens to take the crisis to a whole new level. The lead author even warned that the study  may greatly underestimate the number of species in jeopardy: "The current rate and magnitude of climate change are faster and more severe than many species have experienced in their evolutionary history."

Unfortunately, our species often has an outsized effect on the ability of other species to cope with -- and adapt to -- additional stressors like climate change. For example, as temperatures warm, many species may shift their ranges toward the poles, but human development swallows up potential habitat destinations and blocks movement corridors. That's why it's important to establish preserves that anticipate the full range of species to boost flexibility and resiliency; as one scientist concluded, "We need to give nature the opportunity to respond."

Check out the Center's Overpopulation and Climate Change page for more information.

"Million for a Billion" -- Take Action

The crises of coral reefs and climate change extinctions are part of a global dynamic in which unsustainable human population growth and the resulting overconsumption of natural resources are exceeding the carrying capacity of the Earth. In previous editions of Pop X, we urged you to help slow that dynamic by contacting your congressional representatives and urging them to protect funding for U.S. family planning services. We're happy to report that our collective efforts were successful -- funding was preserved in the recent budget deal. But the battle is far from over. Social conservatives and budget-cutting zealots will almost certainly try again to cut these essential services -- with the latest attack being a stand-alone vote this week on whether the government will continue to fund Planned Parenthood.

Around the world, more than 200 million women who want family planning and reproductive health services don't have access to them. With increased funding, universal access could become a reality, along with the many tangible benefits it would provide, including vastly improved health and welfare for women and children, more stable economies, and a huge reduction in the negative environmental impacts of unsustainable population growth.

That's why we're excited to announce that we're joining a global campaign launched by our allies at the Population Institute to increase international family planning funding. Here in the United States, the "Million for a Billion" campaign aims to collect 1 million signatures on a petition to boost the annual U.S. contribution to funding international family planning and reproductive health services to at least a billion dollars.

Take Action: Please add your voice to this global call for action by signing the petition today.

Until next month,

Randy Serraglio
Overpopulation Campaign Coordinator

Center for Biological Diversity | P.O. Box 710, Tucson, AZ 85702-0710

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Coral reef photo by Jim Maragos/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.