The world’s species are slipping away
Tuesday 3 November 2009
The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ shows that 17,291 species out of the 47,677 assessed species are threatened with extinction
The results reveal 21 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of all known amphibians, 12 percent of all known birds, and 28 percent of reptiles, 37 percent of freshwater fishes, 70 percent of plants, 35 percent of invertebrates assessed so far are under threat.
ZSL scientists from the Institute of Zoology coordinated projects which assessed 2050 of the 2839 species that have been recently added to the IUCN Red List which include freshwater fish, damselflies and dragonflies.
Dr Ben Collen says: “We must take decisive action to reverse the serious declines we see in wildlife. With new information on the status of many freshwater species, we are beginning to understand the significant threats facing these ecosystems. Freshwater habitats provide essential services to humans and we’d struggle to exist if they disappeared.”
This latest version of the IUCN Red List includes 3,120 freshwater fishes, up 510 species from last year. Although there is still a long way to go before the status all the world’s freshwater fishes is known, 1,147 of those assessed so far are threatened with extinction.
The Brown Mudfish (Neochanna apoda), found only in New Zealand, has been moved from Near Threatened to Vulnerable as it has disappeared from many areas in its range. Approximately 85-90 percent of New Zealand's wetlands have been lost or degraded through drainage schemes, irrigation and land development.
ZSL’s Director of Conservation Programmes, Professor Jonathan Baillie, added: “In our lifetime we have gone from having to worry about a relatively small number of highly threatened species to the collapse of entire ecosystems, such as the coral reefs. At what point will society truly respond to this growing crisis?”
All is not lost in the aquatic world though. As a result of conservation efforts the status of the Australian Grayling (Prototroctes maraena), a freshwater fish, has improved. Now classed as Near Threatened as opposed to Vulnerable, the population has recovered thanks to fish ladders which have been constructed over dams to allow migration, enhanced riverside vegetation and the education of fishermen, who now face heavy penalties if found with this species.
ZSL's conservation work on indicators and assessments
In order to combat species population decline, we must have effective monitoring systems in place to gauge human impact on biodiversity.
Biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates. Getting a better understanding of species, and accurately monitoring changes in species populations will better equip us to deal with this issue.
However, the task is complex.