The United Nations report concluding that 1 million species are at risk of extinction included some familiar advice for agriculture: Adopt more sustainable practices, preserve genetic diversity in seeds and animals, and involve more sectors, including the public, in the food system.

Worldwide, a summary of the report says, “Agricultural expansion is the most widespread form of land-use change, with over one third of the terrestrial land surface being used for cropping or animal husbandry. This expansion, alongside a doubling of urban area since 1992 and an unprecedented expansion of infrastructure linked to growing population and consumption, has come mostly at the expense of forests (largely old-growth tropical forests), wetlands and grasslands.” (In the U.S., the latest Census of Agriculture showed a drop in ag acres from 914.5 million to about 900 million, from 2012 to 2017.)

“Reductions in the diversity of cultivated crops, crop wild relatives and domesticated breeds mean that agroecosystems are less resilient against future climate change, pests and pathogens,” the summary said. Losses of intact ecosystems have mainly occurred in the tropics, “home to the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet.” Ethan Lane, senior executive director of federal lands at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and executive director of the Public Lands Council, said in response to the report, “Family ranchers maintain hundreds of millions of acres of large, intact landscapes which many species depend on. Ensuring the continuity and viability of U.S. ranching operations is critical to maintaining vibrant biodiversity in these ecosystems.”

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