Where does biodiversity go from here? A grim business-as-usual forecast and a hopeful portfolio of partial solutions

Paul R. Ehrlich, Robert Mitchell Pringle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations


The threats to the future of biodiversity are many and well known. They include habitat conversion, environmental toxification, climate change, and direct exploitation of wildlife, among others. Moreover, the projected addition of 2.6 billion people by mid-century will almost certainly have a greater environmental impact than that of the last 2.6 billion. Collectively, these trends portend a grim future for biodiversity under a business-as-usual scenario. These threats and their interactions are formidable, but we review seven strategies that, if implemented soundly and scaled up dramatically, would preserve a substantial portion of global biodiversity. These are actions to stabilize the human population and reduce its material consumption, the deployment of endowment funds and other strategies to ensure the efficacy and permanence of conservation areas, steps to make human-dominated landscapes hospitable to biodiversity, measures to account for the economic costs of habitat degradation, the ecological reclamation of degraded lands and repatriation of extirpated species, the education and empowerment of people in the rural tropics, and the fundamental transformation of human attitudes about nature. Like the carbon "stabilization wedges" outlined by Pacala and Socolow [Pacala S, Socolow R (2004) Stabilization wedges: Solving the climate problem for the next 50 years with current technologies. Science 305:968-972] (1), the science and technologies needed to effect this vision already exist. The remaining challenges are largely social, political, and economic. Although academic conservation biology still has an important role to play in developing technical tools and knowledge, success at this juncture hinges more on a massive mobilization of effort to do things that have traditionally been outside the scope of the discipline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11579-11586
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Aug 12 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Biodiversity loss
  • Conservation trust funds
  • Global warming
  • National parks
  • Population extinction


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