Humans Push Plants to Extinction

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Humanity is pushing the Earth’s plant resources faster towards extinction as population continues to grow and countries develop modern economies, a NASA report says.

A NASA research group says an increasing amount of Earth’s total annual and plant production is being consumed, mainly for food but also for paper, clothing, livestock feed, firewood, biofuels and other uses, reported Thursday.

From 1995 to 2005, human consumption of land plants rose from 20 percent to 25 percent of the total plant production of each year, Marc Imhoff at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said.

Both total global consumption and per capita consumption are on the increase, the report says.

“The question is, ‘How hard are we pushing the land?'” Imhoff said. “People are wary about that percentage creeping up. Most people consider that a high number, although we’re still doing research.”

The research does not predict a “doomsday” scenario, he said, but does point to some future likelihoods if current population and consumption trends hold.

“What we’re realizing is the biosphere doesn’t care whether you have a lot of people consuming a little or a few people consuming a lot,” he said. “It’s the total rate that matters.

“If, in future scenarios, it’s going to go up to something like 50 percent, we’re looking at a very high demand for land management to
maximize productivity at all levels on the landscape and at the expense of all other uses, for example, carbon sequestration, habitat or water storage,” he said.

“We would be heading toward a place where the planet would be very carefully managed, from end to end.”

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