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UN meeting aims to preserve biodiversity

Associated Press / October 19, 2010

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TOKYO — Delegates from more than 190 nations kicked off a UN conference yesterday aimed at ensuring the survival of diverse species and ecosystems threatened by pollution, exploitation, and habitat encroachment.

But the two-week marathon talks of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity face divisions between rich and poor nations over what actions to take, the same split that has bogged down global climate negotiations.

Scientists warn that unless more is done to protect species, extinctions will spike and the intricately interconnected natural world will be damaged.

“We’re on the verge of a major extinction spasm,’’ said Russ Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and a field biologist who has spent decades studying primates. “Healthy ecosystems are the underpinnings of human development.’’

If one part of the complex network of living organisms disappears — like bees, which perform the critical role of pollination and whose numbers are falling — the whole system can collapse, scientists argue.

Bringing together 15,000 participants in Nagoya for the convention’s 10th meeting since it was born at the Earth Summit in 1992, the conference will try to hammer out 20 measurable targets for the next decade to try to slow or halt trends.

Scientists estimate that the earth is heading toward its sixth big extinction phase, the greatest since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago.

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