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Colonialism shaped today’s biodiversity

Congratulations to Nussaibah from the DDCP Speaker Series workshop. Her article on colonialism and today’s biodiversity was recently published in Nature ecology & evolution.

“The effects of the redistribution of flora and fauna by European empires are still visible in global biodiversity today and can be traced through the distribution of introduced species. Attempts to solve today’s biodiversity crisis necessitates grappling these colonial legacies head on.

The persistent effects of colonialism have long been the elephant in the room when it comes to the ongoing climate and biodiversity crisis. It took more than 30 years for the term ‘colonialism’ to be included in the reports commissioned by the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC)1. In the most recent IPCC report, colonialism was not only identified as one of the drivers of anthropogenic climate change, but was also identified as responsible for climate change’s disproportionate impacts on certain communities worldwide, especially historically marginalised, ostracised and displaced peoples. Colonialism radically changed the natural world as we know it2: as Europeans ‘discovered’ the riches of the tropics and other continents, natural resources were intentionally (for example, trade of economically important plants), or many times also unintentionally (for example, through contamination), extracted and taken back to the metropolitan state or transferred on to other colonies where they still remain today. Writing in Nature Ecology & Evolution, Lenzner et al.3 assess how European occupation and trade during the colonial era has shaped the global naturalisation of plant species today.”