Nature’s Backbone at Risk
NatureServe chief scientist Tom Brooks, director of species science Bruce Young, and research zoologist Geoff Hammerson all contributed to the most comprehensive assessment of the world’s vertebrates to date, an effort that confirmed an extinction crisis for one-fifth of threatened species. However, according to a study unveiled in October at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Nagoya, Japan, without current global conservation efforts, the situation would be worse.
The study, published in the international journal Science, used data for 25,000 species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and NatureServe’s conservation status assessments to investigate the status of the world’s vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fishes) and how this status has changed over time. The results show that, on average, 50 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians move closer to extinction each year due to the impacts of agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation, and invasive non-native species.
“The ‘backbone’ of biodiversity is being eroded,” said Professor E.O. Wilson of Harvard University. “One small step up the Red List is one giant leap forward towards extinction. This is just a small window on the global losses currently taking place.”
While the study confirms previous reports of continued losses in biodiversity, it is the first to present clear evidence of the positive impact of conservation efforts around the globe. Results show that the status of biodiversity would have declined by at least an additional 20% if conservation action had not been taken.
The study involved some 174 authors from 115 institutions and 38 countries. It was made possible by the voluntary contributions of more than 3,000 scientists under the auspices of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, and a growing partnership of organizations.
“This landmark analysis proves that, when guided by detailed data and supported by adequate financing, conservation of threatened species and their habitats works,” said Mary Klein, president and CEO of NatureServe, one of five members of IUCN’s Red List Partnership. “We know what can and must be done to safeguard biodiversity—we just need to do much more of it.”