The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, conducted by 1,300 environmental experts from 95 countries, says that about 60 percent of ecosystem services supporting life on Earth – fresh water, fisheries, air and water regulation, natural hazards and pests – are being degraded or used unsustainably.
Experts warn that continuing degradation of 15 out of 24 ecosystem services examined will increase the chances of new diseases emerging, water quality changing suddenly, “dead zones” developing along coastlines, fisheries collapsing, and regional climates shifting.
The assessment says more land was converted to agriculture since 1945 than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined. It also says that more than half of the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers ever used were used after 1985. Experts say both of these factors have contributed to accelerated extinction rates and loss of biodiversity, and that between 10 and 30 percent of mammal, bird and amphibian species are currently in danger of extinction.