Quantifying threats to ecosystems
Tuesday 1 April 2008
The world’s ecosystems and their species are increasingly coming under threat due to human activity.
While there is a well-established, globally-adopted system for assessing the risk of extinction to species, a similar method has not yet been put in place for ecosystems.
Scientists in Venezuela, South Africa, Australia, US and UK have been developing systems for assessing the extinction risk to ecosystems. This two-day workshop hosted by the ZSL brought together these experts for the first time in order to develop a global system for measuring the level of threat to ecosystems.
This workshop was attended by 14 biologists, coming from a wide array of non-governmental organisations, academic institutions and government departments, including The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, The Wildlife Trust, Provita, Imperial College London, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, Institute of Zoology, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, and UNEP-WCMC.
The participants brought a wealth of experience in conducting both species-level and ecosystem-level extinction risk assessments, in developing and implementing assessment programmes, and in working with policy-makers to ensure that the resulting data inform national planning.
Participants discussed the key issues in assessing ecosystem extinction risk, identified the most important parameters of ecosystem loss to be incorporated into a method, and then drew up a draft of categories and criteria. The draft categories and criteria were informed by the IUCN species Red List Categories and Criteria, as well as the respective systems developed by the participating scientists.
The resulting method will be tested with several existing datasets and refined as necessary to be applicable throughout the world, at various scales, and to wide range of ecosystem classifications. This work will be presented in two workshops at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in October, after which the relevant scientists will continue to meet and refine the system for eventual adoption as the global standard for ecosystem extinction risk assessment.
For further details, email: Tara Zamin at the Institute of Zoology.