Half of all species could disappear by 2100
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Biologists have warned that up to a half of all species could be wiped out by the end of the century.

The dire statistic comes courtesy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is set to be a major point of discussion at the upcoming Biological Extinction conference.

The three-day event, which will be held at the Vatican, is set to be attended by some of the world's most prominent biologists and ecologists who are hoping to find ways to halt the decline.

One issue is that, while great efforts are being made to protect species such as elephants, rhinos and pandas, there are many species of both plants and animals that are being overlooked.

"All of our food comes directly or indirectly from higher plants, of which there are an estimated 425,000 species," the Biological Extinction statement reads.

"Tens of thousands of these have been cultivated for food at some time by some people, but at present, 103 of them produce about 90 per cent of our food worldwide, while three kinds of grain, maize, rice, and wheat, produce about 60 per cent of the total."

"We have detailed knowledge of perhaps only a fifth of the species of plants in the world, and a majority could be gone in nature by the end of the century we entered recently."

Another matter to be discussed at the conference is the impact our own population is having and how sustainable our civilization will be as the number of people worldwide continues to rise.

"If you value people, you want to have the maximum number you can support sustainably," said Professor Paul Erlich from Stamford University.

"You do not want almost 12 billion living unsustainably on Earth by the end of the century - with the result that civilisation will collapse and there are only a few hundred survivors.