A new study backed by the United Nations and written by over 550 experts warns that human activity is causing an "alarming" decline in biodiversity, which in turn jeopardizes the food, clean water and energy supplies vital to human existence.
The study, released in Medellin, Colombia on Friday, encompasses four regional reports: the Americas, Asian Pacific, Europe, and Central Asia.
Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), was in charge of the study. He told Reuters that biodiversity is about more than saving rare butterflies, trees, birds and rhinos.
"It's way more important than that. Biodiversity – the essential variety of lifeforms on Earth – continues to decline in every region of the world… This alarming trend endangers the quality of life of people everywhere."
Damian Carrington, environment editor with The Guardian, said: "The air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat all ultimately rely on biodiversity.
"Some examples are obvious: without plants there would be no oxygen, and without bees to pollinate there would be no fruit or nuts. Others are less obvious: coral reefs and mangrove swamps provide invaluable protection from cyclones and tsunamis."
Experts have warned Earth is undergoing its first mass extinction since the dinosaurs. This would be the sixth mass extinction in Earth's history, but the first caused by humans.
According to the reports, by 2050 there will be no more exploitable fish stocks in the Asia-Pacific region, and by 2100 the African continent will lose half its species of birds and mammals.
Watson warns there is no way of stopping the current trend, but we could slow the process significantly – an unlikely prospect given that the world population continues to grow and governments are doing little to counter the trend.
"Governments recognise we have a problem," Watson said. "Now we need action, but unfortunately the action we have now is not at the level we need."
A key factor mentioned by the experts is the urgent need to stop viewing natural resources as a business. However, governments continue to ally with for-profit multinational corporations, even against their own populations.