June 7, 2012
Animals Being Threatened By Our Desire For Lumber And Coffee
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
A new study found that one in three animal species in poor countries are being threatened by the world's appetite for coffee and timber.
Researchers from the University of Sydney spent five years tracking the world economy by evaluating over five billion supply chains connecting consumers to over 15,000 commodities produced in 187 countries.The team focused on the global trade of goods implicated in biodiversity like coffee, cocoa and lumber.
According to the study, international trade chains can accelerate degradation in locations far removed from where the product is bought.
"Until now these relationships have only been poorly understood," lead author Manfred Lenzen, from the university's Integrated Sustainability Analysis group, said in a press release. "Our extraordinary number crunching, which took years of data collection and thousands of hours on a supercomputer to process, lets us see these global supply chains in amazing detail for the first time."
The researchers found that 50 to 60 percent of biodiversity loss in countries like Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Honduras was linked to exports.
They said as an example that spider monkeys were threatened by habitat loss because of strong demand for coffee and an increase in cocoa plantations in Mexico and Central America.
According to the study, 171 animal species in Papua New Guinea were threatened by export industries including mining and timber to a few large trending partners, such as Australia.
Sixty of the threatened species in Papua New Guinea were under threat from logging specifically for Japanese residential construction, according to the report.
"There is increasing awareness that developed countries' consumption of imported products can cause a biodiversity footprint that is larger abroad than at home," the study authors wrote in the journal Nature.
"The study shows how this is the case for many countries, including the US, Japan, and numerous European states."
Co-author Barney Foran said in a statement that he hopes the findings would help make labeling products on supermarket shelves with sustainability ratings a normal practice.
"We shouldn't let retailers make sustainability labels a premium product," he said. "We should ask that they always stock products that are made responsibly, from the bottom shelf to the top shelf."
The study authors recommend companies be required to make foreign suppliers accountable to the same production standards they hold to themselves at home.
"In a perfect world affluent consumers in all countries could be important players in halting biodiversity decline if they adopt a ℠values' rather than a ℠price' filter for most of their purchasing decisions," Foran wrote in an email to Reuters.