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Earth's services in peril, report concludes

WASHINGTON The innumerable benefits provided by the Earth everything from fresh water and clean air to productive soils, wild fisheries, and genetic resources - have been depleted at an unprecedented rate in the past 50 years, and in many cases humans are living on borrowed time unless they wake up, a group of scientific experts said today.

In presentations made jointly in 12 cities around the world, authors of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment delivered a major report on the grim status of the services provided by the planet's ecosystems and the consequences to human well-being. The report also outlined possible responses that might be adopted to improve ecosystem management and contribute to human well-being.

"This is a sobering report card - but one with useful and hopeful options" said Jane Lubchenco, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University, and one of the study's 1,360 authors from 95 countries.

"Everyone in the world depends on nature and ecosystem services to provide the conditions for a decent, healthy and secure life," Lubchenco said.

"Humans have made unprecedented changes to ecosystems in recent decades to meet growing demands for food, fresh water, fiber and energy," she said. "Although these changes have helped to improve the lives of billions, they have also weakened nature's ability to deliver other key services such as purification of air and water, protection from disasters and the provision of medicines."

Only four of the ecosystem services examined by the assessment were found to be increasing in their ability to benefit human populations, while 15 were in decline. Five more were found to be in a stable state overall.

"Much of the increase in food and timber production we've seen over the last few decades has come at the expense of other key services needed for future food and timber production, as well as other services," Lubchenco said.

Steps can be take
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Contact: Jane Lubchenco
lubchenco@oregonstate.edu
541-737-5337
Oregon State University
30-Mar-2005


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