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Nearly half of Earth's land has been transformed by humans; 50 'dead zones' found in oceans

Alteration of Land and Water Impair Earth's Ability To Maintain Quality of Human Life, Researcher Asserts

ST. LOUIS, MO, August 2, 1999 - Humans have gravely altered the chemistry, biology and physical structure of the Earth's land and water, according to the latest findings on the "human footprint on Earth." The data showed that nearly half of the land surface of Earth has been changed, and some 50 'dead zones' (areas with little or no oxygen) have developed in the Earth's coastal waters.

The latest findings, analyzed by Drs. Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University and Harold A. Mooney and Peter M. Vitousek of Stanford University, show a "disturbing negative trend in the Earth's ability to maintain the quality of human life," Lubchenco stated.

Lubchenco presented the findings at the XVI International Botanical Congress where more than 4,000 scientists from 100 countries are meeting to discuss the latest research on plants for human survival and improved quality of life. Among the findings are:

  • Close to 50 percent of the land surface of the planet has been transformed by humans, such as filling in wetlands, converting tall grass prairies into cornfields, or converting forests into urban areas.

  • Humans have more than doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the environment because of excess fertilizer use and burning of fossil fuel.

  • Rates of extinction are 100 to 1000 times what they would be without human-induced changes in the planet. On land, this is largely caused by habitat loss and species invasions that are crowding out native species. In water, this is caused by overfishing, as well.

  • The year 1998 was Earth's hottest on record, as human activities continue to increase the concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

Lubchenco pointed out that while human domination of land masses is clear, the new data also indicates a dramatic a
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Contact: Ellen Wilson, Dennis Kelly or Eileen Kugler
ewilson@burnessc.com
301-652-1558
XVI International Botanical Congress
2-Aug-1999


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