IUCN Proposes Red List of Endangered Ecosystems
The world is facing the biodiversity crisis that has been dubbed as the 6th extinction. According to WWF, the rate of global species extinction is at least 10,000 species lost every year. To address the alarming pace of mass extinctions, global standards of criteria were formed by several organizations to identify species in danger. One of the best-known and widely accepted of these is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
The IUCN Red List uses a set of categories for classification of species according to criteria like population, geographic distribution, rate of decline, and others.
- Extinct (EX)
- Extinct in the Wild (EW)
- Critically Endangered (CR)
- Endangered (EN)
- Vulnerable (VU)
- Near Threatened (NT)
- Least Concern (LC)
- Data Deficient (DD)
- Not Evaluated (NE)
From the IUCN Red List Categories Guidelines
Now the IUCN has proposed to apply a similar approach to evaluating entire ecosystems at risk around the world, Huffington Post Green reports.The IUCN proposed the conservation tool during the recent World Conservation Congress held in Jeju Island, South Korea, attended by an estimated 8,000 participants from 170 countries. The organization plans to release the set of criteria early next year.
Though some question the validity of the need for the proposed list, the IUCN plans to go ahead with their global coverage of identifying ecosystems in danger of extinction.
OurAmazingPlanet.com gave its own list of specific ecosystems around the world that stand to benefit from IUCN’s proposed Red List of Endangered Ecosystems. These are Madagascar, Borneo, Micronesia and Polynesia, Sky Islands, the Mediterranean Basin, the Tropical Andes, Antarctica and the Arctic.
Cases like Madagascar’s in particular show that while ecosystems may not collapse due to the loss of one species, the convergence of many such single factors might very well push the entire ecosystem over the edge. According to OAP, Madagascar has suffered the loss of an estimated 80% of its indigenous forests over the past years. The island hosts an incredible number of species families (8 plant families, 4 bird families, 5 primate families) endemic to the area. OAP adds that 50 endemic species of lemurs are found only in this biodiversity-rich island. According to an assessment made by the Primate Specialist Group of the IUCN, over 90% of the 103 species of lemurs should be on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species alone.
Yet a number of factors are converging to threaten the eventual loss of Madagascar’s unique ecosystem. Unsustainable logging and deforestation, grazing, invasive species, illegal hunting and poaching, and illegal wildlife trade are major threats to this ecosystem’s existence.
If implemented, the IUCN Red List of Endangered Ecosystems will serve as a guide to conservation measures including investment priorities on scientific studies and risk assessment of potential ecosystem collapse. IUCN Ecosystem Management Program head Edmund Barrow said that the risk assessment will help identify key threats and potential countermeasures and conservation actions. The organization looks forward to completing worldwide coverage of identification of endangered ecosystems by the year 2025.
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