Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 22, 2020


Jennifer Molidor, (707) 888-9261,

Study: Unbridled Farmland Expansion on Pace to Destroy at Least 25% of Habitat for 1,300 Species Within Next 30 Years

Reducing Meat Consumption, Food Waste Key to Reversing Unchecked Destruction of Natural Areas Home to Nearly 90% of Birds, Amphibians, Mammals

SAN FRANCISCO Nearly 90% of the world’s birds, amphibians and mammals will lose habitat to farm expansions by 2050, according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The analysis shows that without significant changes in current consumption patterns and farming practices, 26% more farmland will be needed to feed the world’s growing global population.

Approximately 1,300 species are on track to lose 25% of their natural habitat, while 96 are projected to lose up to 75% of their territories to farmland expansion. To reverse those losses, the study’s authors say, people in North America and Europe need to eat less meat and more plants and reduce food waste.

“This important study confirms that farming focused on livestock production is driving the extinction crisis by eating up habitat wildlife need to survive,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. “People have started to pay closer attention to the climate cost of food, but we can’t afford to ignore the unacceptably high cost to wildlife.”

The researchers found agricultural expansion is on pace to destroy more than 1.2 million square miles of natural habitat, an area roughly the size of India.

They also found that while increasing agricultural yields will be critical to reducing land-use impacts in the global South, in North America and Europe the key solution is transitioning from meat and dairy production to more sustainable, healthy, plant-based food. Cutting food waste in half is also recommended by the study.

In addition to reducing habitat loss, these solutions reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security.

“We can’t separate the extinction crisis from what’s on our plates,” said Molidor. “But it’s reassuring that the solutions are completely within our reach. By shifting toward plant-based diets and reducing how much food we waste, Americans have a chance to do so much so easily. And help move us toward a diet that’s better for our own health, as well as for the rest of the world’s people and wildlife.”

Another study published in Nature earlier this year determined that up to two-thirds of biodiversity loss could be addressed by dietary shifts. The latest assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that 27% of evaluated species of plants and animals around the globe are threatened with extinction.

And last year the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, known as IPBES, warned that 1 million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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