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Scientists map global trade endangering wildlife

Last Updated: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 12:18

Sydney: Your coffee and cocoa drinking and use of wood products every day puts 30 percent of world`s under-threat species at still greater risk because of loss of biodiversity, a study has pointed out.
The study is the first to map consumer product supply chains and link them to the global register of endangered species. The findings could help improve international-trade regulations, the journal Nature reported.

"Our findings can be used to improve the regulation and product labelling of thousands of internationally traded products," said Manfred Lenzen, professor of physics at the University of Sydney, who led the study.

The study evaluated over five billion supply chains connecting consumers to over 15,000 commodities produced in 187 countries. This was cross-referenced with a global register of 25,000 endangered and vulnerable species, according to a university statement.

"Until now these relationships have only been poorly understood. Our extraordinary number crunching, which took years of data collection and thousands of hours on a supercomputer to process, lets us see these global supply chains in amazing detail for the first time," said Lenzen.

Among exporting countries, where the species losses actually occur, on average 35 percent of recorded threats can be linked to export-led production. In Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Honduras, this figure is 50 to 60 percent.

Papua New Guinea, for example, has 171 listed species threatened by export industries, including mining, timber, coffee, and cocoa, to a few large trading partners, including Australia. Agricultural exports from Indonesia, another Australian trading partner, affect 294 species, including tigers.

There is increasing awareness that developed countries` consumption of imported products can cause a biodiversity footprint that is larger abroad than at home.

The study shows how this is the case for many countries, including the US, Japan, and numerous European states.

Australia`s trove of unique species means that despite its high consumption, it is a net exporter of implicated goods, including mining and agricultural products, whose production often drives habitat loss and pollution that threaten particular species.

"We shouldn`t let retailers make sustainability labels on a premium product. We should ask that they always stock products that are made responsibly, from the bottom shelf to the top shelf," said Barney Foran, study co-author from the School of Physics.

Biodiversity will be a major focus at the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit Conference later in June.


First Published: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 12:18
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