• Otávio Santiago

How DNA sequencing can safeguard against biodiversity loss


Preserving Earth’s biodiversity is crucial as we rely on healthy ecosystems for many services, from clean air and water to protection from floods and pandemics. DNA sequencing is an invaluable tool for characterizing biodiversity and informing conservation efforts.


In Earth’s history, there have been five major mass extinction events — the most recent of which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Today, we are facing a biodiversity crisis where the rate of species extinction is hundreds of times higher than the normal rate, causing scientists to dub this ongoing extinction event the sixth mass extinction.


Caused in large part by human activity, including deforestation, overfishing and overhunting, fossil fuel burning, and pollution, the global habitat and biodiversity loss is unprecedented. Since 1970, there has been an average 68% drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations.


Biodiversity loss affects ecosystem health, which has major repercussions for human society. We rely on functioning ecosystems for climate stability, food and water security, building materials, and medicines — to name a few. Healthy ecosystems are also important for our health, as diminishing biodiversity can make pandemics more likely.


“Globally, overall biodiversity intactness is 75%, which is markedly under the agreed safe limit of 90% for warding off what’s known as an ‘ecological recession.’ A collapsing ecosystem affects all those species who rely on it, so it’s imperative that we act now to preserve our planet’s biodiversity,” said Neil Ward, PacBio vice president, and general manager for EMEA.

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