We need to focus on limiting human population growth, reducing resource consumption, and cracking down on government corruption, if we're going to stop the global loss of species known as the sixth great extinction.

Key points box biodiversity

Key points:

  • 2020 biodiversity targets failing globally
  • Population pressure and high rates of resource consumption are key threats
  • Australia has worst record on mammal extinction, driven by land clearing

That's the message from a team of scientists who today published their recommendations for slowing current rates of biodiversity loss, in a paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Although key threats to biodiversity include habitat clearing for cattle, mining, and urban sprawl, these are all consequences of population pressure and high rates of resource consumption, according to Deakin University researcher Euan Ritchie.

"It's often a taboo topic to talk about human population size and family planning and how much we consume as individuals," Dr Ritchie said.

"But if we don't address these issues in the context of biodiversity conservation and sustainability then we're largely kidding ourselves."

The researchers assessed the 2020 targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — the world's central conservation strategy to which 196 nations have signed up.

They concluded that many of the global biodiversity conservation aims known as the Aichi targets, are inadequate and lacking key indicators to measure the effects of governments, human population size, corruption and "threat industries" like mining.

As a result, they say the targets are failing to halt the catastrophic decline of species worldwide and need to be revised to include the major drivers of species loss.

"Ignoring major drivers is a fundamental flaw of the current set of targets and indicators," the paper states.

Australia worst offender for mammal loss

Although the paper is a global study, Dr Ritchie argues that Australia's poor record on species loss means we need to be making changes to halt the demise of biodiversity here.

"We have the worst record in the world on mammal conservation, with 30 species likely to have become extinct since European settlement," he said.

"In terms of the big issues for biodiversity loss in Australia, they are habitat loss which is associated with urbanisation, agriculture and extractive industries such as mining."