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World’s vertebrate species cracking

Humans are rapidly breaking the backs of our fellow vertebrate species: One fifth of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles now being threatened with extinction, a massive international report says.

Billed as the most comprehensive ever assessment of global vertebrate health, the report looked at more than 26,000 species and showed one in eight birds and one in four mammals are at risk of disappearing.

“These (vertebrates) include animals that people are most familiar with and tend to care the most about, especially the mammals and the birds,” says Craig Hilton-Taylor, Manager of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List Unit.

“It (the report) very clearly shows that we are not taking good care of our natural capital,” Hilton-Taylor says.

The report, released Tuesday by the journal Science, included Canadian researchers. It also shows that one in seven fish species, a quarter of all reptiles and one third of all sharks and amphibians could face imminent extinction.

“More worrying is that when we look at the trends in the status of species over time, we find that there are more species moving towards extinction or becoming extinct than there are species recovering,” Hilton-Taylor said.

The report estimates about 50 vertebrate species will join the ranks of the endangered each year.

At fault is a usual list of culprits, including agricultural expansion, logging, overhunting and invasive alien species, the report says. But new threats, such as amphibian-killing fungi, have also become worrisome, it says.

“And as we gain an understanding of the impacts of climate change on species, we know that the situation is set to become even bleaker,” Hilton-Taylor says.

Many of these problems are especially acute in Southeast Asia, which has experienced the most significant losses of late.

“The natural world is being destroyed faster than ever,” says Stuart Butchart, Global Research Coordinator at BirdLife International.

“And while governments have made some efforts to tackle biodiversity loss, these efforts have been woefully inadequate,” he said in a teleconference with reporters.

Butcher says the loss of vertebrate species sheds a glaring light on the world’s failure to meet U.N. target set in 2002 to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by this year.

Canada received both praise and condemnation from several of the report’s authors, who lauded this country’s laws protecting endangered species, but criticized our still exploitive fishing practices.

“Canada does still need to show much more leadership in the protection of marine species,” says co-author Nicholas Dulvy, co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, who is based in Vancouver.

But the picture is not entirely bleak. The report found that the vertebrate problem would be about 18 per cent worse without conservation efforts that have already been launched.

The paper’s release coincides with a conference a conference in Nagoya, Japan, where world leaders are gathered to discuss reasons for failure to meet 2010 conservation goals and to set new targets.

The paper, which includes some 200 authorsfrom around the world, assessed the species using a set of criteria set out by the IUCN’s Red List.
Source: World?s vertebrate species cracking - thestar.com



One fifth of vertebrates in the grip of an 'extinction crisis’

The most comprehensive study ever carried out of animals with a backbone, or vertebrates, found that on average 50 species become more endangered each year. Insects, corals, aquatic creatures and plant species are also declining.

The Zoological Society of London study, published in the journal Science, blamed human activities such as farming and the introduction of invasive species in different countries.

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Entire lineages such as marine turtles, pandas or tigers are in danger of being lost forever.

The study found that the total population of animals in the world has fallen by a third in the last 30 years. This includes once-common species like sparrows, wildebeest and harvest mice.

However there is hope. The study also looked for the first time at the impact of conservation programmes on the fate of threatened species. It found that 20 per cent more species would have been lost if action was not taken by governments or charities.

The report was released at a United Nations meeting in Japan where more than 190 countries are gathering to discuss the state of the world's wildlife.

The study, led by the Zoological Society of London, looked at the state of 25,000 species considered at risk by the International Union of Nature Conservation (IUCN).

The IUCN ‘red list’ is already a respected monitor of the world’s wildlife, but had never calculated the total risk to vertebrates. Amphibians are most at risk with 41 per cent threatened because of the threat of a fatal new fungus, while 13 per cent of birds and a quarter of mammals are under threat.

Dr Ben Collen, research fellow at ZSL, said vertebrates have declined by 30 per cent in the last 40 years while the human population has doubled.

“There is no doubt we are in an extinction crisis. 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,” he said.

Professor Edward O. Wilson, the famous ecologist from Harvard University, warned that the loss of vertebrates was the tip of the iceberg.

"The 'backbone' of biodiversity is being eroded. This is just a small window on the global losses taking place,” he said.

A recent study by Oxford University found England is losing 25 wildlife species every year, including mosses, insects and mammals.

Prof David MacDonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the university, called for conservation efforts to be ramped up at home and abroad.

“To combat extinction threats we must know what we’ve got, treasure it, and appreciate its plight,” he said.

Examples of the threatened species include

Iberian lynx

Tasmanian devil

Black rhino

Tiger

Panda

Grey-faced elephant shrew

Cuban crocodile

Wild horse

African elephant

Blue skate
source: One fifth of vertebrates in the grip of an 'extinction crisis’ - Telegraph
 
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