Call to protect forgotten desert diversity

Conservation Scientists from ZSL and partner organisations are calling on politicians at the Rio +20 Summit to keep desert and drylands habitats in mind and protect these fragile ecosystems. 

Deserts cover 17% of the world’s land mass and are surprisingly biodiverse, home to some of the most endangered species in the world. 6% of the world’s population also rely on desert regions, including some of the worlds’ poorest people.

Despite this, desert conservation has been largely neglected by policy-makers, in favour of conserving ‘biodiversity hotspots’ such as tropical rain forests. These offer greater ‘bang for buck’ in terms of species conserved per dollar spent on conservation. A far higher proportion of conservation funding is spent on forests, and this is mirrored by differences in scientific investigation.

In a letter just published in Science, ZSL conservation scientists and those in partner organisations are calling politicians to put deserts at the top of the agenda at Rio+20; to support the UN Convention on Combating Desertification; and to set a clear target for restoration of desert ecosystems to benefit biodiversity and people.

ZSL already has conservation projects around the globe to address the destruction of desert environments, such as the Sahara Wildlife Survey work with the Sahara Conservation Fund, wild dog and cheetah conservation work in West Africa, and work in the Gobi desert in Mongolia . Action across the globe is needed, however, if the world's deserts are not to become lifeless.

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