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Loss of habitats irreplaceable, warn scientists

Wednesday August 01, 2012 10:34:26 AM, IANS

Sydney: It is hard to replace a lost habitat without losing species, even though the goal may be laudable, warn scientists.

"There's been a lot of talk among policymakers about 'offsets', meaning that if you damage or lose the environment in one place you compensate by restoring or protecting an equivalent area somewhere else," explains study author Richard Hobbs, professor at ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED).

With up to a billion hectares of wilderness likely to be cleared to feed the world in the coming half century and an area the size of China devoured by cities, leading environmental scientists are urging caution over the extent to which lost eco-systems can be replaced or restored.

A team including researchers from (CEED) has advised governments worldwide to think twice before assuming an environment lost to development can easily be replaced elsewhere, the journal Biological Conservation reported.

"There's been a lot of talk among policymakers about 'offsets', meaning that if you damage or lose the environment in one place, you compensate by restoring or protecting an equivalent area somewhere else," Hobbs was quoted as saying in a CEED statement.

Currently there are more than 64 such programmes under way around the world and policy support for the solution is gathering steam, "But the science to date suggests it is very hard to replace a lost environment in another locality so there is no net loss of species," Hobbs said.

"Current conservation policies talk glibly about offsets and seem to promise much - but it isn't clear they really appreciate how difficult and expensive it can be to translocate a whole ecosystem with all its species and their relationships," he said.

Martine Maron from The University of Queensland, who led the study, said: "In some cases, we are trying to use offsets to replace centuries-old trees. For some species, the long wait before newly-planted trees can provide food or nesting hollows for fauna means that offsetting is a very high-risk strategy."


 








 

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