Why are species in decline?2022-06-16T13:20:19+00:00

Why are species in decline?

Home-Conserving nature-What is Biodiversity?-Why are species in decline?

Species Loss

Recent scientific analyses estimate the current rate of extinction to be around 1,000 times higher than the natural background rate (Pimm et al., 2014), a reality which sees species go extinct every day. Of the 93,579 species presently assessed by the IUCN Red List, which acts as a barometer for life on Earth, 27 per cent are adjudged to be threatened with extinction (IUCN Red List, 2018): more than one fifth of those are Critically Endangered species. Furthermore, in addition to species extinction, species abundance has been reduced dramatically in the last century. The Living Planet Index (WWF, 2016) estimates the loss of vertebrate abundance between 1970 – 2012 to be around 58 per cent, based on 14,152 populations of 3,176 species monitored. These trends are as dramatic as they are harrowing, and such is the scale of biodiversity loss that scientists have begun to describe the current species extinction as the sixth mass extinction event in the 3.4 billion year history of life on Earth, one driven by homo sapiens.

Endangered species - A Bonobo in tree, image by Christian Ziegler, National Geographic

Whilst conservationists are often warned not to make everything sound too depressing, it is difficult to present the current statistics on species extinction and decline in any other way. Yet as our knowledge grows, so does the realisation that we are actually capable of doing something about this. Earth’s fate is not consigned. Indeed, the present extinction crisis is not blind, in almost all cases we know both how and why biodiversity is decreasing, which brings hope that we can do something about it.