[Daily Mail] An ever-expanding human population and exploding demand for food, water and living space, will place animals at 'unprecedented' extinction risk in the next 50 years, experts warned Wednesday.
Facing the highest level of threat are more than 360 species of large mammals in Africa, Asia and South America -- the most biodiverse regions of the world, said a review published in the journal Nature Insight.
But all is not lost, and a drastic change to human diets and farming methods could provide 'healthy diets' for 10 billion people by 2060, while also preserving liveable habitats for most remaining species, it concluded.
'With forethought and timely action, these goals can be achieved.'
Successive waves of species extinctions have followed in the wake of modern humans' spread out of Africa to the rest of the world.
By 3,000 years ago, Earth had lost half of its terrestrial mammal mega-species -- animals which weigh more than 44 kilogrammes (97 pounds) -- and 15 percent of its birds.
The human population at seven billion is now 25 times larger than it was then, and projected to add another four billion mouths to feed by century's end.
Already, a quarter of mammal species and 13 percent of birds are threatened with extinction, said the review authors.
'Extinction rates for birds, mammals and amphibians are similar at present to those of the five global mass-extinction events of the past 500 million years that probably resulted from meteorite impacts, massive volcanism and other cataclysmic forces,' they wrote.
One such event is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
Hunting, culling and poaching imperils up to half of threatened bird and mammal species, said the paper.
Designated protected areas now cover about 14 percent of Earth's land surface, yet biodiversity continues to decline worldwide. Read More