Wildlife Atlas maps vital role of ecosystems.

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Experts estimate that at the current extinction rates of plants and animals, the Earth is losing one major drug every two years, and that less than 1 per cent of the world's 250,000 tropical plants has been screened for potential pharmaceutical applications. The first "World Atlas of Biodiversity: Earth's Living Resources for the 21st Century", launched by the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), shows how humankind is dependent on healthy ecosystems for all its needs.

Some 80 per cent of people in developing countries rely on medicines based largely on plants and animals. In the United States, 56 per cent of the top 150 prescribed drugs, with an economic value of $80 billion, is linked with discoveries made in the wild.

The first comprehensive and accessible map-based view of global issues on biodiversity, the Atlas provides a wealth of facts and figures on the importance of forests, wetlands, marine and coastal environments and other key ecosystems. It is the best current synthesis of the latest research and analysis by UNEP-WCMC and the conservation community worldwide. It also highlights humankind's impact on the natural world.

During the past 150 years, humans have directly impacted and altered close to 47 per cent of the global land area, the Atlas reports.

Under one bleak scenario, biodiversity will...

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