A study just publicized by the IUCN confirms that there is a current global extinction crisis with one-fifth of our world’s vertebrate (backboned) animal species threatened. The study used data for 25,000 species from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ to investigate how the populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes have changed over time, reports the IUCN. The report reveals that the percentage of threatened species ranges from 13% of birds to 33% of reef-building corals and 41% of amphibians. As renowned ecologist E.O. Wilson told the researchers, “The ‘backbone’ of biodiversity is being eroded”.
The leading causes of the species being driven towards extinction are agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation and invasive alien species. Southeast Asia leads the extinction drive by planting export crops such as oil palms, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting.
While the study shows a dire situation, it also confirms that conservation efforts pay off. The results show that biodiversity would have declined by nearly 20% if conservation action had not been taken. The status of 64 mammal, bird and amphibian species has improved thanks to successful conservation programs. A few species, including the black footed ferret in the US and Canada, have been restored from captive breeding programs to the wild after the species went extinct in the wild.
What conservation needs is more resources and commitment by governments, businesses and citizens. The biodiversity conference currently being held in Nagoya Japan will hopefully end with the world’s governments reaching an international agreement on some conservation steps to be taken to try to plug the holes in decreasing species populations.
If you’d like to read more, the study will be published in the international journal called Science.