Washington: Facing what many scientists say is the sixth mass extinction in half-a-billion years, our planet urgently needs a "bailout plan" to protect its biodiversity, a top conservation group said Thursday.
Failure to stem the loss of animal and plant species will have dire consequences on human well-being, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned.
"The gap between the pressure on our natural resources and governments` response to the deterioration is widening," said Bill Jackson, the group`s deputy director, calling for a 10-year strategy to reverse current trends.
"By ignoring the urgent need for action we stand to pay a much higher price in the long term than the world can afford," he said in a statement.
A fifth of mammals, 30 percent of amphibians, 12 percent of known birds, and more than a quarter of reef-building corals -- the livelihood cornerstone for 500 million people in coastal areas -- face extinction, according to the IUCN`s benchmark Red List of Threatened Species.
In 2002, the international community pledged to slow the biodiversity drop off by 2010, and incorporated the target into the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
But the decline has continued apace, according to a major scientific assessment published last week in the journal Science.
The next opportunity to set new goals and devise a strategy for achieving them will be the October meeting in Nagoya, Japan of the Convention of Biological Diversity. In preparation, an advisory body of scientists will brainstorm in Nairobi, Kenya starting next week, and formulate recommendations.
Discussions will cover protected areas, inland and marine water areas, the impact of climate change, biofuels and invasive species, said the IUCN, a key partner in the deliberations.
"This year we have a one-off opportunity to really bring home to the world the importance of the need to save nature for all life on Earth," said Jane Smart, head of the IUCN`s Biodiversity Conservation Group.
"If we don`t come up with a big plan now, the planet will not survive," she said. The IUCN draws together more than 1,000 government and NGO organisations, and 11,000 volunteer scientists from about 160 countries.