Thursday Dec 8, 2022
Thursday Dec 8, 2022

More species threatened with extinction than previously thought

2022 Aug 05, 12:41, Minneapolis, US

Biodiversity is a complex topic, with millions of plants and animal species spread across every biome on the planet. To bring the global challenges to biodiversity into focus, experts from all over the world must communicate across borders. How can researchers share their findings in order to develop a shared understanding of the risks and opportunities for action?

A new survey led by Forest Isbell, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, and published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, attempts to fill some of the gaps in understanding by synthesising the perspectives of thousands of biodiversity experts worldwide. The survey received 3,331 responses from scientists researching biodiversity in 187 countries, representing all major groups of species, habitats, and ecosystems.

"Experts estimated that approximately 30% of species have been globally threatened or driven extinct since the year 1500, based on the types of species and ecosystems they are most familiar with." Experts also acknowledged significant uncertainty in their estimates, with as few as 16% or as many as 50% of species threatened or driven extinct during this time," said Isbell.

The research also discovered significant demographic and geographic differences in expert perspectives and estimates.

"This paper incorporates the perspectives of a diverse group of experts, allowing us to assess lesser-known taxa while also giving underrepresented experts a voice in the global literature." "Women-identified experts from the Global South have provided significantly higher estimates for past biodiversity loss and its consequences," said co-author Patricia Balvanera of the University of Mexico. "In addition, experts who identify as women study the taxa that experts believe are most threatened."

The researchers encourage biodiversity experts to use these findings to learn how their own perspectives differ from those of other experts, and to ensure that a diverse range of perspectives is considered when conducting global biodiversity assessments, setting global biodiversity goals and targets, and implementing new policies and other transformative changes to conserve biodiversity.

"Because biodiversity is highly regional in nature, our study's attempt to bring together the perspectives of regional experts from around the world is unprecedented," said co-author Akira Mori of Japan's University of Tokyo. "From the standpoint of social and cultural diversity and inclusiveness, I believe we have presented some suggestions for future international policy discussions, even if they are not necessarily complete."

According to experts, significantly increasing conservation investments and efforts now could eliminate the threat of extinction for one in every three species that would otherwise be threatened or extinct by 2100. 


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