“Generally Ignored” Species Face Double Threat of Extinction, Study Warns | IUCN Red List of Endangered Species

One study warned that plants and animals that do not have enough data to be properly evaluated appear to be at twice the risk of extinction than those that have been evaluated, meaning more species could be wiped out of the planet than previously thought. precedence.

Researchers looked at the risk of extinction of species assessed on the Red List of Endangered Species and found that 56% of species in the Data Deficient (DD) category were threatened, compared with 28% of those that had been assessed. .

A species is considered DD if there is insufficient data on its distribution or population and these species are “generally ignored” in studies analyzing impacts on biodiversity, the researchers wrote in the paper, published in Communications Biology. The red list, created by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is used by governments to determine which species should be prioritized for conservation action.

The IUCN evaluates more than 140,000 species based on criteria such as population size, trends and threats. There are 20,000 DD species on the red list, and politicians often view them as less of a concern, but this study showed that a much higher percentage of these species are threatened. Researchers said 85 percent of DD amphibians were at risk, as were more than half of mammals, reptiles and insects.

The species could be DD because there are very few of them, sightings are rare, or they could be cryptic species, making it difficult to estimate their population. To overcome these problems, the researchers created an algorithm that predicted the probabilities that species were at risk of extinction based on key factors they knew, such as the global distribution of those species, climatic conditions, changes in land use. , the use of pesticides and threats from invasive agents. species. The researchers ran the algorithm on DD species if their geographic distribution was known, i.e. for about 38% of them.

Some DD species with very high chances of being at risk included the Sierra Miahuatlan pointed thumb frog, which has a 95% chance of being threatened with extinction, as well as the Sholai nocturnal frog and a Mexican fish called Ajijic silverside.

A female furcifer timoni, a species of chameleon found in Madagascar.  The region is one of the three with the largest number of species lacking in data at risk.
A female furciferous rudders, a species of chameleon found in Madagascar. The region is one of the three with the largest number of species lacking in data at risk. Photograph: Jorn Kohler / WWF / PA

Previous studies have looked at the extinction risk of DD species, but this is the largest, considering 21 taxonomic groups – still “a tiny fraction of what exists in the world,” according to lead researcher Jan Borgelt of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Borgelt said: “Overall, what is most striking is that in nearly every coastal and terrestrial area of ​​the world, the average risk of extinction would be higher if we took data-deficient species into account.” If DD species were included, 33% of the species on the red list would be threatened, compared to 28%, according to the algorithm.

Central Africa, South Asia, and Madagascar are the regions with the highest number of DD species at risk, although the researchers have not examined why this may be the case. As many as half of the DD marine species living in coastal areas are at risk of extinction.

Professor Jane Hill of the University of York, who is also a trustee of the British Ecological Society, and was not involved in the research, said: ‘The study is important because the approach used [machine learning methods] it could be applied to many more species ”.

About 18,000 invertebrates have been assessed for extinction on the red list, but 27% are DD. The extinction rate of insects is eight times faster than that of birds, mammals and reptiles, according to an analysis published last year, with known declines that could be the “tip of the iceberg.” Research has shown that vertebrates get nearly 500 times more funding for each species than invertebrates, which are perceived as less “charismatic”.

Hill said, “It has long been recognized that the IUCN’s red list approach only focuses on a small fraction of all species on Earth and that it needs to be more representative. So, even though this study provides more information on species DD, we still know very little about most species on Earth. “

Some of the DD species are endangered

An example where the algorithm could be used is with the new recognition The rice whale, which scientists thought could be a species for nearly a decade, although it took years to gain official recognition. Now there are only about fifty left, in the area affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where there is a lot of boat traffic and oil and gas extraction. There is no local protest because no one knows it exists, says marine researcher Dr Chris Parsons of the University of Exeter, who believes the DD category should be given the status of “presumed threatened”. He said: “If immediate precautionary measures had been taken years ago when they first suspected a new species, this could have forced them to conduct research immediately and put in place emergency measures that could have prevented it from becoming critically endangered. “.

A beaked whale in the waters off the west coast of Mexico.  Data on beaked whales is so scarce that it has not been possible to assess how much risk they really are.
A beaked whale off the west coast of Mexico. Data on beaked whales is so scarce that it has not been possible to assess how much risk they really are. Photograph: Simon Ager / Sea Shepherd / Reuters

of 23 beaked whale especially in the red list, seven are DDs. They spend a lot of time underwater (their dives can take three hours) and are difficult to see in the wild, but are at risk for a number of threats, including noise pollution in the man-made ocean that could cause stranding mass. Data on beaked whales is so scarce that the algorithm hasn’t been able to assess how much risk they are.

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in Southeast Asia they have long been considered DD so there was no funding and little interest in studying them. They are now considered “near threatened” and have become Hong Kong’s official mascot, as well as being listed in the US Endangered Species Act, which is aiding international conservation efforts.

Find more coverage on the age of extinction here and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston And Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: