Present and future biodiversity risks from fossil fuel exploitation

Harfoot, Michael B J, Tittensor, Derek P, Knight, Sarah, Arnell, Andrew P, Blyth, Simon, Brooks, Sharon, Butchart, Stuart H M, Hutton, Jon, Jones, Matthew I, Kapos, Valerie, Scharlemann, Jӧrn P W and Burgess, Neil D. (2018) Present and future biodiversity risks from fossil fuel exploitation. Conservation Letters. e12448. ISSN 1755263X

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Currently, human society is predominantly powered by fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—yet also ultimately depends on goods and services provided by biodiversity. Fossil fuel extraction impacts biodiversity indirectly through climate change and by increasing accessibility, and directly through habitat loss and pollution. In contrast to the indirect effects, quantification of the direct impacts has been relatively neglected. To address this, we analyse the potential threat to > 37,000 species and > 200,000 protected areas globally from the locations of present and future fossil fuel extraction in marine and terrestrial environments. Sites that are currently exploited have higher species richness and endemism than unexploited sites, whereas known future hydrocarbon activities will predominantly move into less biodiverse locations. We identify 181 ‘high‐risk’ locations where oil or gas extraction suitability coincides with biodiversity importance, making conflicts between extraction and conservation probable. In total, protected areas are located on US$3‐15 trillion of unexploited hydrocarbon reserves, posing challenges and potentially opportunities for protected area management and sustainable financing.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Biodiversity, fossil fuels, conservation protected areas, threats
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Sustainability Research Programme
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD9000 Special industries and trades > HD9502 Energy industries. Energy policy. Fuel trade
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0001 Natural history (General) > QH0075 Nature conservation
Depositing User: Jorn Scharlemann
Date Deposited: 19 Mar 2018 10:29
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2018 16:42

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