Human impact on ecosystems

Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems faster and more extensively than in any period in human history. This has been due largely to rapidly growing demands for food, freshwater, timber, fiber, and fuel. The result has been a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth. The changes made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs. These costs include the degradation of many ecosystem services, increased risks of abrupt changes, and increased poverty for some groups of people. These problems, unless addressed, will substantially reduce the benefits that future generations get from ecosystems. This degradation of ecosystem services could get significantly worse during the next 50 years. It is a barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands for their services is a challenge. This challenge can be partially met in the future under scenarios involving significant changes to policies, institutions, and practices. However, these required actions will have to be substantial when compared to the actions currently taken. These are the result of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a comprehensive study launched by Kofi Annan.
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