Expanding Agriculture and Climate Change are Placing the World’s Endemic Species at Risk

A conservation group has warned that one-third of the species on its “survival watchlist” are now at high risk of extinction.

The binturong, also known as bearcat, is native to South and Southeast Asia.
Sep. 27, 2021
By Ephantus Mukundi
The binturong, also known as bearcat, is native to South and Southeast Asia.

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One of the world’s lead­ing con­ser­va­tion groups has warned that 38,744 species on its sur­vival watch­list” have become at high risk of extinc­tion.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said at a con­fer­ence ear­lier this month in Marseilles, France that despite some improve­ments in con­ser­va­tion efforts over recent years, the num­ber of species at risk of extinc­tion con­tin­ues to grow.

Whether these past trends in habi­tat range losses will reverse, con­tinue or accel­er­ate will depend on future global car­bon emis­sions and soci­etal choices.- Andrea Manica, zool­o­gist, University of Cambridge

The group has iden­ti­fied 138,374 species on its sur­vival watch­list,” of which 28 per­cent have moved from being under threat of extinc­tion to high risk of extinc­tion.

See Also: Europe Announces Plan to Plant 3 Billion Trees by 2030

Climate change and the degra­da­tion of nat­ural envi­ron­ments are two main rea­sons for the grow­ing threat to Earth’s bio­di­ver­sity.

Of par­tic­u­lar note, the IUCN warned that the komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, has moved into the high risk of extinc­tion cat­e­gory.

The idea that these pre­his­toric ani­mals have moved one step closer to extinc­tion due in part to cli­mate change is ter­ri­fy­ing – and a fur­ther clar­ion call for nature to be placed at the heart of all deci­sion mak­ing on the eve of the COP26 in Glasgow,” Andrew Terry, a con­ser­va­tion direc­tor at the Zoological Society of London, told CNN.

The IUCN’s find­ings sup­port the con­clu­sions reached by a pre­vi­ous study pub­lished in the Nature Communications jour­nal, which showed that defor­esta­tion and cli­mate change are caus­ing rapid destruc­tion of nat­ural habi­tats around the world and putting vul­ner­a­ble species at risk.

The study found that the global demand for food has led to increased land use, which has, in turn, increased defor­esta­tion and the trans­for­ma­tion of nat­ural habi­tats into cul­ti­vated lands.

This trans­for­ma­tion both increases green­house emis­sions and harms the nat­ural cycles of ecosys­tems, neg­a­tively impact­ing all stages of ani­mal life.

Whether these past trends in habi­tat range losses will reverse, con­tinue or accel­er­ate will depend on future global car­bon emis­sions and soci­etal choices in the com­ing years and decades,” said Andrea Manica, the lead author of the study and zool­ogy pro­fes­sor at the University of Cambridge.

In another study, recently pub­lished in the Biological Conversation jour­nal, sci­en­tists demon­strated that changes in the planet’s tem­per­a­ture by more than 3 ºC could cause the extinc­tion of half of endemic marine species and one-third of endemic species on land.

The syn­the­sis study found that ani­mals and plants liv­ing in one area are more likely to be affected by cli­mate change com­pared to less spe­cial­ized species.

However, inva­sive species are likely to face insignif­i­cant or no effects in the face of a warm­ing cli­mate. This might give inva­sive oppor­tunists room to grad­u­ally push out endemic species lead­ing to a decrease in bio­di­ver­sity.

We were really sur­prised at how much more we expect to lose with such lit­tle increases in aver­age tem­per­a­ture,” one of the study’s authors told Carbon Brief. Following the Paris Agreement [warm­ing lim­its] would make a huge dif­fer­ence for our bio­di­ver­sity world­wide.”





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