Deforestation could lead to the disappearance of up to a fifth of South East Asia's plant and animal life within the next century. According to new research rapid and large scale loss of natural habitats has already affected biodiversity in the area and urgent conservation efforts are now needed. This report from Ania Lichtarowicz.
The humid tropics of South East Asia are one of the Earth's major reservoirs of animal and plant species. But this rich biodiversity is under threat because of continuing habitat-loss. Vast areas are being cleared through deforestation either for agriculture or urban development and if habitats continue to disappear at their present rate, then between thirteen and forty two per cent of wildlife will become extinct. These predictions have been calculated by scientists from Singapore, Australia and Japan, who looked at species loss in Singapore over the last one hundred and eighty years. Here habitats of terrestrial and freshwater species have shrunk by ninety five per cent, and forest reserves - which cover only a quarter of a per cent of Singapore's land area, now harbour more than fifty per cent of flora and fauna. By comparing this data to the rest of the region the scientists calculated these huge losses. The authors say that major conservation efforts need to be put in place otherwise many species will be lost forever. BBC, Ania Lichtarowicz