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Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife
Date:4/18/2014

Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to Stanford researchers.

Wildlife and the natural habitat that supports it might be an increasingly scarce commodity in a world where at least three-quarters of the land surface is directly affected by humans and the rest is vulnerable to human-caused impacts such as climate change. But what if altered agricultural landscapes could play vital roles in nurturing wildlife populations while also feeding an ever-growing human population?

A new study, published April 16 in the journal Nature and co-authored by three Stanford scientists, finds that a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy recommendations is overly pessimistic. The researchers point to an alternative framework that promises a more effective way of accounting for human-altered landscapes and assessing ecological risks.

Current projections forecast that about half of Earth's plants and animals will go extinct over the next century because of human activities, mostly due to our agricultural methods. "The extinction under way threatens to weaken and even destroy key parts of Earth's life-support systems, upon which economic prosperity and all other aspects of human well-being depend," said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science at Stanford and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

But that grim future isn't a foregone conclusion.

"Until the next asteroid slams into Earth, the future of all known life hinges on people, more than on any other force," Daily said.

Nature is not an island

Conservationists have long assumed that once natural landscapes are fractured by human development or agriculture, mi
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Contact: Rob Jordan
rjordan@stanford.edu
650-721-1881
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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