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Biodiversity loss on the increase


02 May 2006, Gland, Switzerland — The IUCN 2006 Red List highlights the serious situation the world’s biodiversity is facing, and to some extent highlights what we already know. Threats to biodiversity are at an all time high, caused by detrimental human activities across the globe. The loss of species is an indication of the degraded state of our planet.

“This is not just about more and more individual species being threatened by extinction" said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

"One by one, the building blocks of entire ecosystems are disappearing. It’s like taking one brick after another from a wall, and eventually it will crumble. It is not an exaggeration to call today’s analysis the reflection of a global conservation crisis.”

The Red List is an effective guide that shows the net effects that continual habitat loss and degradation, over-exploitation, pollutants, climate change and the introduction of invasive plants and species into new areas, are having on our planet.

Climate change represents one of the most pervasive threats to our planet’s biodiversity. A recently published study co-authored by WWF suggests that a quarter of the world’s species will be on their way to extinction by 2050 as a result of global warming.

“It isn’t just polar bears and penguins that we must worry about anymore,” said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme.

“If the regions with the largest variety of animals and plants are no longer habitable due to global warming then we will destroy the last sanctuaries of many species and at the same time risk the future of millions of people.”

Human reliance on wildlife for everyday needs cannot be overestimated. Healthy ecosystems with healthy species populations are critical to the livelihoods and very survival of local and indigenous communities around the world. However, overexploitation of species for food, medicine, pets and other human uses, is a direct driver of species loss. These threats, in combination, are pushing the planet’s resources to the limit.

For example, of the 547 species of shark, 20 per cent are now threatened with extinction. The ever-worsening status of so many species of sharks is symptomatic of the failure of fisheries management to sustainably manage these fisheries and to mitigate the impact of bycatch – the incidental catch of species – when sharks are not the direct target of a fishery.

WWF applauds IUCN for drawing attention to this situation and calls on governments and industry to take immediate action to address this problem. These include the development and adoption of methods to reduce the number of sharks caught in shark fisheries and as bycatch; the development of national plans of action for the conservation and management of sharks; and improvements to fisheries data collection, especially relating to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, so that such worrying trends can be identified and addressed earlier.

WWF works on threats to biodiversity through its programmes across the globe, and across a wide range of issues concentrating on the root causes of biodiversity loss. These include working with people, local communities, governments, the private sector and academics to help deliver conservation outcomes for biodiversity. It is crucial that governments, donors and our own communities mobilize now to address this crisis.

WWF believes the IUCN Red list is an important science-based conservation tool that should be used across the globe by communities, governments and international fora to drive funding and decision making. Reversal of the negative trend is possible when political motivation is high and when local communities see the value and benefit from conserving species. It is also important to remember that many of the world’s threatened species are in the same places as some of the world’s poorest people. In many cases, the root causes of species loss in these areas are either the same as, or closely related to, the causes of poverty.

The Red List is developed by a voluntary network of Species Specialist groups. WWF works in close cooperation with IUCN across the globe, through field interventions and by providing financial and technical support to the various Species Specialist groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.


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