Economic inequality predicts biodiversity loss
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Human activity is causing high rates of biodiversity loss. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the extent to which socioeconomic factors exacerbate or ameliorate our impacts on biological diversity. One such factor, economic inequality, has been shown to affect public health, and has been linked to environmental problems in general. We tested how strongly economic inequality is related to biodiversity loss in particular. We found that among countries, and among US states, the number of species that are threatened or declining increases substantially with the Gini ratio of income inequality. At both levels of analysis, the connection between income inequality and biodiversity loss persists after controlling for biophysical conditions, human population size, and per capita GDP or income. Future research should explore potential mechanisms behind this equality-biodiversity relationship. Our results suggest that economic reforms would go hand in hand with, if not serving as a prerequisite for, effective conservation.
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