Rio +20: World faces mass extinction of wildlife, UN warns

The world faces a mass extinction of wildlife, according to the latest assessment of endangered animals by the United Nations.
Louise Gray The Telegraph 19 Jun 12;

The so-called Red List, that is updated regularly, has grown even bigger despite efforts worldwide so save species like tigers, Pandas and blue fin tuna.

The latest assessment brings the total up to 19,817 of 63,837 species assessed.

At threat are 41 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, 20 percent of plants and 13 percent of birds.

The new list comes as world leaders gather in Rio for the biggest ever UN summit on sustainable development 20 years after the original Earth Summit in 1992.

More than 190 countries are trying to draw up a new agreement that would stop destruction of habitat and protect the world’s remaining plants and animals.However at the moment the text on the table is too vague to stop destruction of habitat, according to organisations like the WWF.

Julia Marton-Lefevre, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), that compiles the list, said the summit is the best hope to stop the loss of species.

She pointed out that many of these plants and animals are essential for humans, providing food and work and a gene pool for better crops and new medicines.

"The findings are a clarion call to world leaders gathering in Rio to secure the web of life on this planet," she said.

The Red List is updated each year or more. The 2012 count of threatened species is unchanged from 2011, except for birds, where the proportion is 0.5 percent higher.

New information found that snakes, including the King Cobra, Asia’s largest venomous serpent, are increasingly threatened by hunting for meat, skin and the pet trade.

Endangered Species 'Red List' Update Showcases Biodiversity Threats
OurAmazingPlanet 19 Jun 12;

The most widely recognized list of the world's endangered and threatened species got its latest update today (June 19), with nearly a third of all the species examined being classified as threatened with extinction.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species showing that of the 63,837 species examined worldwide, 19,817 are threatened with extinction — nearly a third of the total. The group found that 41 percent of amphibian species are threatened, as well as 33 percent of reef building corals and 25 percent of mammals.

The list was released on the eve of the United Nation's Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"Sustainability is a matter of life and death for people on the planet," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "A sustainable future cannot be achieved without conserving biological diversity — animal and plant species, their habitats and their genes — not only for nature itself, but also for all 7 billion people who depend on it. The latest IUCN Red List is a clarion call to world leaders gathering in Rio to secure the web of life on this planet."

The updated list found a wide variety of species to be newly threatened or endangered. Many of them are not the charismatic faces often used to promote conservation, but they are extremely valuable to the habitats they dwell in and the people that depend on those habitats. [Gallery: Species on Endangered 'Red List']

An important food source, freshwater fish are facing threats from unsustainable fishing practices and habitat destruction caused by pollution and the construction of dams globally. A quarter of the world's inland fisheries are located on the African continent, yet 27 percent of freshwater fish in Africa are threatened, including the Oreochromis karongae, an extremely important source of food in the Lake Malawi region that has been severely overfished.

Some ocean fish are also in trouble, which is problematic for the large percentage of people worldwide who survive and earn their income from fishing. Yet overfishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks by over 90 percent. More than a third of skates and rays are threatened with extinction including the commercially valuable Leopard Ray, the IUCN said in a statement.

More than 275 million people are dependent on coral reefs for food, but 55 percent of reef fisheries are over-harvested. The new list also found that 18 percent of groupers, an economically important family of large reef fish, are threatened.

Production of at least one third of the world's food, including 87 of the 113 leading food crops, depends on pollination carried out by insects, bats and birds. According to the IUCN Red List, 16 percent of Europe's endemic butterflies are threatened. Bats, which are also important pollinators, are also at risk with 18 percent threatened globally. The update shows that four members of the hummingbird family, which is known for its pollination services, are now at greater risk of extinction. Besides being important pollinators, bats and birds also help to control insect populations that may otherwise destroy crops and spread disease.

"The services and economic value that species provide are irreplaceable and essential to our wellbeing," said Jon Paul Rodríguez, with the IUCN Species Survival Commission. "Unless we live within the limits set by nature, and manage our natural resources sustainably, more and more species will be driven towards extinction. If we ignore our responsibility we will compromise our own survival."

The update also found 13 percent of birds and 30 percent of conifer species to be threatened.

Bivalve mollusks and many wetland plants carry out water filtration services to provide clean water. In Africa 42 percent of all freshwater mollusks are globally threatened, while in Europe the figure is 68 percent.

Red List counts 'on the brink' species
Richard Black BBC News 19 Jun 12;

East Asia's status as the world's main "extinction hotspot" is confirmed in the new Red List of Threatened Species.

Snakes such as the king cobra, the world's largest venomous serpent, are increasingly threatened by hunting for meat, skin and the pet trade.

The Red List was unveiled at the Rio+20 sustainable development meeting.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which compiles the list, says it shows the importance of nature for human wellbeing.

One of the themes of the Rio meeting, which comes 20 years after the iconic Earth Summit here, is the "green economy" - an economy that uses the services nature provides more wisely, and safeguards them.

"A sustainable future cannot be achieved without conserving biological diversity, not only for nature itself but also for all seven billion people who depend on it," said IUCN director-general Julia Marton-Lefevre.

"The latest Red List is a clarion call to world leaders gathering in Rio to secure the web of life on this planet."

Two thousand new species have been assessed for this edition of the Red List, bringing the total to 63,837.

Overall, the statistics are little changed: 41% of amphibians, 33% of reef-building corals, 25% of mammals and 13% of birds languish on the risk list.

While the biggest threat globally is loss of habitat, the picture for the newly assessed East Asian snakes is somewhat different.

Rapid economic growth and consequent demand for natural resources are putting increased pressure on mammals, plants, reptiles and amphibians across the region.

But for the snakes, deliberate harvesting for food, medicine, skin and the pet trade emerges as a serious issue.

"Paradoxically, the conversion of forest to oil palm plantations, which is so bad for many species, seems to be quite good for some snakes," said Craig Hilton-Taylor, manager of IUCN's Red List Unit.

"That's why a lot of trade is coming from those areas," he told BBC News.

"As long as it's controlled and kept sustainable, that's fine; but once the demand for snakes starts moving into their native habitat, that's a problem."
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Dr Hilton-Taylor also highlighted the listing of new Asian primates including the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, which has straightaway gained a Critically Endangered rating.

"It was only described last year - in fact, very few people have seen it; in fact it's really known only from camera traps," he said.

The new list includes a number of plants that have been over-harvested for fruit that are used in food and medicine, including two species of turmeric and one of ginger.

The Rio+20 summit is not directly concerned with nature protection - that is the job of other UN organisations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity.

But its focus is on making development more sustainable, urging governments to measure "natural capital", the money locked up in forests, water, plants and animals.

Pollination of plants, for example, is estimated to be worth $200bn to the global economy each year - and as IUCN notes, numbers of some pollinating animals including some bees, bats and birds are falling.

Just before the meeting started, IUCN released its assessment of Amazonian birds, which moved 100 species from lower classes of threat (such as Vulnerable) to higher classes (Endangered or Critically Endangered).

See also IUCN Securing the Web of Life