Evolution Lost: Global wildlife stocktake
Wednesday 27 October 2010
The most comprehensive stocktake of the world’s vertebrates reveals that populations of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species have declined on average by 30 per cent over 40 years, and one fifth of all vertebrates species are threatened with extinction.
Evolution Lost, produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), uses the latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species data and the WWF Living Planet Index population data to give us a complete picture of the state of the world’s vertebrates.
The report provides for the first time information on population trends for all vertebrate groups (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) and information on the threatened status of reptiles and fish. With this new data it is possible to estimate the conservation status of all vertebrates.
Over the past four decades terrestrial mammal populations are estimated to have declined by a quarter, marine fish by a fifth and freshwater fish by as much as 65%.
In addition to providing a baseline for the health of vertebrates, Evolution Lost also highlights the unique evolutionary history that we have lost through past species extinctions. The Guam flying fox, Las Vegas valley leopard frog and the Cape Verde giant skink are just some of the of the species no longer stalking our planet today.
“Evolution Lost comes at a critical time for conserving global biodiversity. It provides a benchmark on which to base future targets for reducing biodiversity loss and serves as a stark reminder of the of unique species we have already let slip through our fingers,” says Prof Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation Programmes at ZSL.
Evolution Lost also highlights entire lineages such as marine turtles, pandas, rhinos and Darwin’s frogs, that are on the brink of being lost. The report concludes with a call for increased conservation capacity that takes an ecosystem level approach, and for serious discussions about overconsumption, population growth and poor governance.
Co-author, Dr Ben Collen, Research Fellow at ZSL says, “Darwin’s legacy is literally in our hands. If we continue to plunder our natural resources without considering their true value, we stand to lose the very fabric that makes up our unique evolutionary history.”
The new IUCN Red List of Threatened Species data in Evolution Lost will also be published in a paper in the international journal Science, which will highlight that biodiversity would have declined by an additional 20 per cent if conservation processes had not been in place.
Watch a short film about Evolution Lost