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November 18th, 2014
IUCN Red List Shows the Appetite for Resources Pushes New Species to the Brink

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Sydney, Australia, Nov. 17, 2014—Fishing, logging, mining, agriculture and other activities to satisfy our growing  appetite for resources are threatening the survival of thePacific Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Pufferfish, American Eel and Chinese Cobra. The destruction of habitat has caused the extinction of a Malaysian mollusc and the world’s largest known earwig, andthreatens the survival of many other species – according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney, Australia.

The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, now includes 76,199 assessed species, of which 22,413 are threatened with extinction.  As nearly half of thenewly assessed species occur within protected areas, IUCN calls for better management of these places to stop further biodiversity decline.

“Each update of the IUCN Red List makes us realize that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend. Experts warn that threatened species poorly represented in protected areas are declining twice as fast as those which are well represented. Our responsibility is to increase the number of protected areas and ensure that they are effectively managed so that they can contribute to saving our planet’s biodiversity.”

With today’s update, the Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) has moved from the Least Concern category to Vulnerable, which means that it is now threatened with extinction. The species is extensively targeted by the fishing industry for the sushi and sashimi markets predominantly in Asia. Most of the fish caught are juveniles which have not yet had a chance to reproduce and the population is estimated to have declined by 19 to 33% over the past 22 years. 

Existing marine protected areas do not provide sufficient protection for the species. The expansion of marine protected areas, within 200 miles of the coast and incorporating breeding areas, could help conserve the species, according to IUCN experts.“The Pacific Bluefin Tuna market value continues to rise,” says Bruce Collette, Chair, IUCN Species Survival CommissionTuna and Billfish Specialist Group.  “Unless fisheries implement the conservation and management measures developed for the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including a reduction in the catches of juvenile fish, we cannot expect its status to improve in the short term.”

The Chinese Pufferfish (Takifugu chinensis) has entered the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Its global population is estimated to have declined by 99.99% over the past 40 years due to overexploitation. A popular food fish in Japan, it is among the top four fugu species consumed as sashimi. One of the world’s most poisonous fish, fugu need to be expertly prepared before consumption. The Chinese Pufferfish occurs in several marine protected areas throughout the coastal waters of China. Conservation measures, such as the creation of marine protected areas which are annually closed to trawling, have been implemented. However, harvest still needs to be urgently controlled to prevent the species’ extinction, say IUCN experts.

The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata), listed as Endangered is threatened by barriers to migration; climate change; parasites; pollution; habitat loss and commercial harvest.  Due to the decline of the Japanese Eel (Anguilla japonica), also listed as Endangered, the intensive eel farming industry in East Asia is seeking to replenish seed stock with other species, such as the American Eel. This has led to increased reports of poaching of the American Eel in the United States. Whilst the combination of these threats is placing pressure on the species, positive conservation action could result in an improvement in its status.

The Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) has been newly assessed as Vulnerable. Its population has declined by 30 to 50% over the past 20 years. Chinese Cobras are found in south-eastern China, Taiwan, northern Viet Nam and Lao PDR, and are among the top animal species exported from mainland China to Hong Kong for the food market. Chinese Cobras are found in protected areas such as Ailaoshan Nature Reserve, Daweishan Nature Reserve (Yunnan) and Kenting National Park (Taiwan).  Although international trade in the species is regulated, there is an urgent need to strengthen national conservation initiatives to ensure its survival.

“The growing food market is putting unsustainable pressure on these and other species,” says Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Group. “We urgently need to impose strict limits on harvesting and take appropriate measures to protect habitats.”

This Red List update also highlights several species that have been impacted by habitat destruction, including all 66 threatened chameleon species, despite some of these species occurring within protected areas. The Giant East Usambara Blade-horned Chameleon, Kinyongia matschiei, endemic to the East Usambara mountains of Tanzania, has been listed as Endangered. Like many other chameleons, this species uses colour for communication. It also darkens when stressed and wraps its tail around branches to remain secure. Found in the Amani Nature Reserve, a protected area, this reptile is threatened by the clearance of forests for agriculture, charcoal production and extraction of timber.

The Black Grass-dart Butterfly (Ocybadistes knightorum) has entered the IUCN Red List as Endangered.  Found only in the northern New South Wales coastal region of Australia, the species is threatened primarily due to the invasion of introduced weeds and coastal development destroying its habitat. A significant proportion of its habitat exists in protected areas such asBongil Bongil National Park and Gaagal Wonggan (South Beach) National Park, and the effective management of these areas could play an important role in securing the species’ future. The threat from weed invasion is being managed in some reserves where key habitat patches have responded well to weeding, resulting in successful habitat rehabilitation.

Two species have been declared Extinct due to habitat destruction. Plectostoma sciaphilum, a snail known from a singlelimestone hill in Peninsular Malaysia is now listed as Extinct as a result of the hill being entirely destroyed by limestone quarrying by a large company. The future of several other species in the region is uncertain for similar reasons. Whilst some mining companies are starting to take the necessary steps to reduce impact, IUCN is urging stronger commitment to prevent further extinctions.

The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) – the world’s largest known earwig attaining a length of up to 80 mm – has also gone extinct. Previously found in Horse Point Plain, a protected area on St Helena Island, the last confirmed live adult of this insect was seen in May 1967.  Since the early 1960s, its habitat has been degraded by the removal of nearly all shelter-providing surface stones for construction purposes. Increased predator pressures from mice, rats and invasive predatory invertebrates also contributed to the earwig’s extinction.

“These recent extinctions could have been avoided through better habitat protection,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Today’s update also highlights two amphibian species which have improved in status thanks to successful management of Colombia’s Ranita Dorada Reserve, where they occur. We need to take more responsibility for our actions to see many more successes like this one, and to have a positive impact on the health of our planet.”

About IUCN

IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.  The world’s oldest and largest global environmental network, IUCN is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 professional staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN’s headquarters are located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland.  www.iucn.org

About the Species Survival Commission

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 7,500 experts.  SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity.  SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation. 

 About BirdLife

BirdLifeInternationalistheworld’slargestnatureconservationPartnership. Togetherweare120BirdLifePartnersworldwide–onepercountry–andgrowing, withalmost11millionsupporters,7000localconservationgroupsand7400staff. Findoutmoreat  www.birdlife.org/www.facebook.com/BirdLifeInternational

About Botanic Gardens Conservation International

BGCI is an international organization that exists to ensure the world-wide conservation of threatened plants, the continued existence of which are intrinsically linked to global issues including poverty, human well-being and climate change. BGCI represents over 700 members – mostly botanic gardens – in 118 countries. We aim to support and empower our members and the wider conservation community so that their knowledge and expertise can be applied to reversing the threat of extinction crisis facing one third of all plants. http://www.bgci.org 

About Conservation International (CI)

Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25th anniversary in 2012, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and 900 employees working in nearly 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world.  For more information, please visit atwww.conservation.org, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. http://www.microsoft.com

About NatureServe

NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to providing the scientific basis for effective conservation action. Through its network of 82 natural heritage programs and conservation data centres in the United States, Canada, and Latin America, NatureServe provides a unique body of detailed scientific information and conservation biodiversity expertise about the plants, animals, and ecosystems of the Americas. www.natureserve.org

About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly 2 million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew and its partners have collected and conserved seed from 10 per cent of the world’s wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25 per cent by 2020, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders. www.kew.org

About Sapienza University of Rome

With over 700 years of history and 145,000 students, Sapienza is the largest University in Europe, the second in the world after El Cairo: a city within the city. The University includes 11 faculties and 67 departments. In Sapienza there are over 4,500 professors, and 5,000 administrative and technical staff.  Sapienza offers a wide choice of courses including 300 degree programs and 200 specialized qualifications. Students coming from other regions are over 30,000 and the foreign students are over 7,000. Sapienza plans and carries out important scientific investigations in almost all disciplines, achieving high-standard results both on a national and on an international level. Professor Luigi Frati has been the Rector of Sapienza University since November 2008.http://www.uniroma1.it/

About Texas A&M University

From humble beginnings in 1876 as Texas’ first public institution of higher learning, to a bustling 5,200-acre campus with a nationally recognized faculty, Texas A&M University is one of a select few universities with land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant designations. With an enrolment of about half men and half women, 25 percent of the freshman class are the first in their family to attend college. Here, 39,000-plus undergraduates and more than 9,400 graduate students have access to world-class research programs and award-winning faculty. Texas A&M has two branch campuses, one in Galveston, Texas, and one in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. This research-intensive flagship university with 10 colleges was recently ranked first in the nation by Smart Money magazine for “pay-back ratio” (what graduates earn compared to the cost of their education). The 2011 U.S. News and World Report ranked Texas A&M second nationally in their “Great Schools, Great Prices” category among public universities and 22nd overall. Many degree programs are ranked among the top 10 in the country. www.tamu.edu

About Wildscreen

Wildscreen is an award-wining wildlife conservation charity that shares awe-inspiring images of life on Earth to empower conservation around the world. It achieves its mission through its four interconnected initiatives – Wildscreen Arkive, Wildscreen Exchange. Wildscreen Festivals and Wildscreen Outreach. Founded in 1982, Wildscreen inspires photographers and filmmakers to take the most vital images, uses those images to inspire the next generation of conservationists online and in their communities, and arms conservation organisations around the world with them – so their all-important stories have the best chance of being seen and heard.  http://www.wildscreen.org

About the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: the key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 50 countries worldwide. http://www.zsl.org/” target=”_blank” style=”color:rgb(17, 85, 204)”>www.zsl.org

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