TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The UN biodiversity conference is underway in Montreal, Canada where every nation on Earth is meeting to try to find a solution to the biodiversity crisis.

As the human population surges past 8 billion people, the once seemingly infinite resources of Earth are under significant strain from overconsumption and development.

Since 1970, wildlife populations have plunged by 69%. The UN says around 1 million species are threatened with extinction. Much of that is being driven by overconsumption.

In just the past 30 years, nature has lost 1.6 million square miles, a land area equivalent to the size of 1/2 of the continental US or 25 Florida’s. Some scientists say we are now in the 6th mass extinction, with extinction rates 1,000 times higher than what’s natural.

WFLA’s Chief Meteorologist and Climate Specialist Jeff Berardelli spoke with Professor Soltis, the Director of the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Florida.

She says that every species has a role in a local ecosystem and the loss of any species will cause a disruption, “Everything fits together in a very tightly woven pattern and unraveling one little piece of that fabric can result in huge, potentially catastrophic effects.”

The US Coastal Plain, and particularly Florida, has been found to be a biodiversity hotspot.
But Soltis says all the main drivers of biodiversity loss on a global scale are at play here in Florida: Overdevelopment, climate change, pollution, exploitation of natural resources and invasive species.

“We have over 100 species in Florida that are endangered and this can upset our natural ecosystems, it can upset how our species interact with each other and the services they provide, that humans benefit from”.

One of those species is the iconic manatee. Over the past two years, about 1,700 Florida manatees have died – many due to starvation from rampant algae blooms due to nutrient pollution and warming waters. That’s killing sea grass which is their primary food source.

These threats to biodiversity are happening all over the planet, especially in the developing world. So, the international community has its sights set on a specific goal by 2030.
Berardelli asked Soltis about a plan to protect nature called 30 by 30, where the world will aim to protect 30% of land and marine systems by 2030 in an effort to reverse biodiversity loss.

Soltis said, “I think that would be a great idea. If we could do 30%, there are a lot of estimates that suggest that would really help in terms of preserving biodiversity. Of course, that depends on what the regions are. If they are tropical rain forests and other very species-rich regions then those areas would contribute much more.”

Experts say it’s doable, but it will be a challenge to reach a balance while protecting indigenous rights as well. Right now, 16% of the Earth’s land and 8% of its waters are protected.

The biodiversity conference wraps up on Monday and by then we may know if the nations will agree to protect 30% of nature.

It’s worth noting, the US is the only nation in the World that is not an official part of the convention and has not ratified the Treaty on Biological Diversity. With that said, in January, President Joe Biden did announce an equivalent 30 by 30 goal for the US.