Almost every organism on earth isfood for another - that's how life on this planet works. Plants convert solar energy into food through photosynthesis and are the main food of herbivores, which carnivores feed on. This food chain underlies all ecosystems, but if even one of its links disappears, the future awaits us bleak. The decline in the number of bees, for example, and their subsequent extinction could lead to the death of at least 35% of pollinators worldwide. At the same time, over the past 50 years, about 60% of animal populations have disappeared from the face of the Earth, and the situation is deteriorating every year. Rapid climate change and the sixth mass extinction threaten the survival of the terrestrial mammal food chain. The authors of a new study published in the journal Science write about this. The authors of the work also point to the strongest degradation of ecosystems, which is much stronger than one would expect.
The state of terrestrial ecosystems
The food chain is the link betweenpredators and their prey and regulates the population size - the more complex the food chain, the more links it has. And as the state of the environment is rapidly deteriorating, more and more animals and plants are on the verge of extinction. As a major study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has shown, Over the past 100 years, more than 400 species of vertebrates have become extinct.
The IUCN forecast looks even worse - withinIn the next 20 years, at least 500 species will disappear from the face of the Earth. The speed of the observed extinction is also amazing - in the past this process lasted at least 10,000 years, and today it occurs within one human life. Moreover, we are witnessing the first mass extinction in the last 65 million years. A huge body of scientific research also points to the imminent extinction of wildlife.
Rapid climate change has already led tounprecedented fires, floods and extreme heat. According to previously published forecasts, by 2050 one third of the land will be under water, and by 2070 the heat will turn modern metropolises into stone deserts. And as a new analysis shows, the food chain is collapsing due to declining animal populations.
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food chain collapse
To assess the state of the food chainthe researchers decided to follow its changes over the past 130,000 years. While fossils can tell a lot about species from that period, computer simulations provide a complete picture of how these species interacted with each other. The work used observational data on the behavior of predators and their prey - in this way, scientists trained the neural network to predict the likelihood of hunting some animal species for others.
When an animal disappears from an ecosystem, its loss is reflected in the links in the food chain that link all species in ecosystems together, the study said in a press release.
And as soon as the neural network figured out the eating habits of various species (with an accuracy of 90%), the scientists plotted the data on the map and came to the conclusion that the global food chain may collapse due to declining animal populations. In this case, the extinction of species occurs selectively. Fortunately, the results of a new study have shown that the restoration of populations of endangered species is still possible.
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Although the use of machine learning methodsto study and model the complex structures of food chains is not something new, this technology is not generally accepted at the moment. However, researchers believe that efforts to restore populations of predators and their prey may be successful.
Many endangered species are extremely important forrestoration of a complex and large food chain, and thanks to computer simulations, scientists know exactly what actions will help maintain balance and biodiversity. An important role in this process is played by the restoration of the natural habitat of wild animals. But without fighting climate change, the situation will not change.
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Climate and wildlife extinction
Climate change is the main threatthe future of our planet, humanity is exacerbating the situation more and more. Increased climate change, wars and the pandemic threaten food security, and the number of hungry people in the world will rise by tens of millions in the near future.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), adverse effects on food production and quality are already being felt.
The IPCC experts found that the performancein the food industry decreased by 21% due to global warming; high temperatures and heavy rainfall harm soil health; and elevated levels of carbon dioxide reduce the nutritional value of crops.
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Thus, if within the next 30 years noIf adequate measures are taken to restore the world's ecosystems, all life on our planet may soon disappear. In particular, the IPCC predicts that the number of foodstuffs will be reduced by 21% by 2100. Yet more than 80% of the calories consumed worldwide come from just 10 crops.
A huge problem is also death of marine life (due to climate change and pollutionenvironment). By reducing the impact on ecosystems, we can buy time for many organisms to adapt to changing conditions. Ultimately, the rise in global temperatures affects all links in the food chain, and only by working together can we preserve biodiversity and human civilization.