World Vertebrate Populations Declining – How is Canada Doing?
A new study, The Impact of Conservation on the Status of the World's Vertebrates, published in the journal Science, sheds light on the global biodiversity crisis we are facing today.
Carried out by 174 scientists from around the world, and using data for 25,780 species (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes) from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the study finds that an estimated 20% of the world's vertebrates are Threatened - assigned Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable status according to the IUCN Red List. Of the 20% are 25% of all mammals, 13% of birds, 22% of reptiles, 41% of amphibians, 33% of cartilaginous fishes (e.g., sharks and rays) and 15% of bony fishes (i.e., fish with scales). Their study shows that an average of 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move closer to extinction annually.
The main threats driving these species towards extinction are logging, over-exploitation, agricultural expansion and invasive alien species. Southeast Asia has experienced the most losses and faces high risk of extinction. Other regions seeing large declines in biodiversity include parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America and Australia.
On a more positive note, the study shows clear evidence that without conservation efforts biodiversity loss would have increased by 18%. Their analysis showed that 64 mammal, bird and amphibian species had their status improved due to such efforts. Three of these species (the California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus, and the Black-footed Ferret, Mustela nigripes, in the United States, and Przewalski’s Horse, Equus ferus, in Mongolia) had been extinct in the wild and later reintroduced.
To ensure that conservation work continues to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, their study shows that commitment and resources are needed. Referring to the tenth meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Biodiversity (CBD COP10
) in Nagoya, Japan, IUCN's Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre says "this is clear evidence for why we absolutely must emerge from Nagoya with a strategic plan of action to direct our efforts for biodiversity in the coming decade. It is a clarion call for all of us – governments, businesses, citizens – to mobilize resources and drive the action required. Conservation does work but it needs our support, and it needs it fast!”
Canada's latest and most comprehensive report on biodiversity, Canadian Biodiversity: Ecosystem Status and Trends 2010
, shows that in this country 20% of amphibians are at risk of extinction, 17% percent of freshwater fish are Endangered or Threatened, 40% of grassland birds have been lost and there has been a 50% decline in the 35 shorebird species found in Canada. Canada's 4th National Report
to the CBD (a reporting mechanism under the Convention every four years), which assessed progress towards the 2010 Biodiversity Target
, showed that an average of 17% of Canadian species across all taxa are considered 'at risk', 30 species were Extirpated and 12 have gone Extinct.
in urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take action in conserving Canada's natural heritage during this International Year of Biodiversity! And don't forget that there are changes we can all make
in our everyday lives that will benefit biodiversity, too.
Photo 1: African Elephant
Photo 2: Burrowing Owl