Although evidence remains incomplete, the report finds enough to warn that ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined ?including fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests ?increases the likelihood of potentially abrupt changes that will seriously affect human well-being.
Its findings include:
* More land was converted to agriculture since 1945 than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, first made in 1913, ever used on the planet have been used since 1985, resulting in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in diversity, with some 10 to 30 per cent of the mammal, bird and amphibian species currently threatened with extinction.
* Ecosystem degradation is a barrier to achieving the MDGs. In all the four plausible futures explored, scientists project progress in eliminating hunger, but at far slower rates than needed to halve the scourge by 2015. Changes in ecosystems such as deforestation influence the abundance of human pathogens such as malaria and cholera, as well as the risk of emergence of new diseases. Malaria, for example, accounts for 11 per cent of the disease burden in Africa and had it been eliminated 35 years ago, the continent's gross domestic product would have increased by $100 billion.
* The world's poorest people suffer most from ecosystem changes. The regions facing significant problems of degradation ?sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, some regions in Latin America, and parts of South and Southeast Asia ?also face the greatest challenges in achieving the MDGs, such as halving extreme poverty by 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa the number of poor is forecast to rise to 404 million in a decade from 315 mill