PerspectiveEcology

How much biodiversity loss is too much?

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 220-221
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag1712

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Summary

How much of something do we need to keep people safe and well? This question is frequently asked by those working in risk management. Across diverse sectors from flood protection to health care, practitioners assess risk as the product of the impact of a given event and the probability of its occurrence. Although these estimates are often uncertain, policy-makers must ultimately make spending decisions aimed at averting these risks, because the costs of inaction to society can be substantial. Biodiversity loss is a similarly critical, yet uncertain, issue. On page 288 of this issue, Newbold et al. (1) quantify global biodiversity losses, providing much-needed information on the encroachment of proposed “safe limits.”