The Living Planet Index measures trends in the Earth's biological diversity. It tracks populations of 1,313 vertebrate species - fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals - from all around the world.
By tracking wild species, the Living Planet Index is also monitoring the health of eco-systems. Between 1970 and 2003, the index fell by about 30%, this global trend suggests that we are degrading natural ecosystems at a rate unprecedented in human history.
In the Amazon rainforest, the home of more species of plants and animals than anywhere else on Earth, predictions are for higher temperatures and a longer dry season each year. These will cause further damage to the forest - not least because the loss of forest - will reduce the amount of rainfall in the amazon where evaporation of water from the canopies of rainforests, particularly in coastal regions is a vital source of rainfall for the forests inland.
The rain and the forests are interdependent; if the coastal forests are lost, the interior will dry out. Human activity is already fragmenting the forest at an accelerating rate, making it harder for species under threat to migrate, reducing rainfall levels, and increasing the number of fires that start. Studies at Britain's Meteorological Office suggest that, as Brazil gets hotter and drier, it could reach a threshold beyond which the world's largest rainforest succumbs to massive fires from which it cannot recover.
The arid woodland around the Mediterranean and the forest of the Himalayan Mountains, home to a tenth of the world's mountain plants and animals are also increasingly at risk of fire along with the pine forests of Siberia. Here, higher temperatures will trigger more lightning strikes. Once alight these huge fires will release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating the process of global warming further. Other areas such as the tropical mangroves of South East Asia and the increasing problems of desertification are exacerbated by global warming.
SOS Sahel (Tackling deforestation and desertification) - The Old Music Hall,
106-108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JE
Tel: 01865 403305 - www.sahel.org.uk
Rainforest Action Network - 221 Pine Street, 5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104 USA
Tel: 00 00 415 398-4404 - http://ran.org
Friends of the Earth - 26 -28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ.
Tel: 020 7490 15555 www.foe.co.uk
Greenpeace - Canonbury Villas, Islington, London, N1 2PN. Tel: 0207 8658100
Water Aid - WaterAid,
47-49 Durham Street, London SE11 5JD
Tel: 020 7793 4500 - www.wateraid.org/uk
1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H OET. www.foresgith.gov.uk
Campaign for Protection of Rural England
128 Southwark Street,
London, SE1 0SW.
Tel: 020 7981 2800. www.cpre.org.uk
Centre for Alternative Technology - Machnynlleth, Powys, SY20 9AZ.
Tel: 01654 702339. www.zerocarbonbritain.com
16b Cherwell Street, Oxford,OX4 1BS.
Tel: 01865 727911. www.coinet.org.uk
International Tree Foundation - Sandy Lane, Crawley Down, West Sussex, RH10 4HS
Tel: 01342 717300 - www.internationaltreefoundation.org
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