List of Threatened Species Released
The latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species illustrates the efforts undertaken by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its partners to expand the number and diversity of species assessed, improving the quality of information in order to obtain a better picture of the state of biodiversity. With now more than 61,900 species reviewed, another big step forward has been made toward developing the IUCN Red List into a true ‘Barometer of Life,’ as called for by leading experts in the magazine Science in 2010.
“This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world,” says Jane Smart, director, IUCN Global Species Programme. “We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.”
Despite the action of conservation programmes, 25 percent of mammals are at risk of extinction. For example, the reassessments of several Rhinoceros species show that the subspecies of the Black Rhino in western Africa, the Western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) has officially been declared Extinct. The subspecies of the White Rhino in central Africa, the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is currently teetering on the brink of extinction and has been listed as Possibly Extinct in the Wild. The Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is also making its last stand, as the subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus is probably Extinct, following the poaching of what is thought to be the last animal in Viet Nam in 2010. Although this is not the end of the Javan Rhino, it does reduce the species to a single, tiny, declining population on Java. A lack of political support and willpower for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos.
“Human beings are stewards of the earth and we are responsible for protecting the species that share our environment,” says Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “In the case of both the Western Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino, the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented. These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve breeding performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction.”
Several conservation successes have already been achieved including the Southern White Rhino subspecies (Ceratotherium simum simum), which has increased from a population of less than 100 at the end of the 19th century, to an estimated wild population of more than 20,000. The Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus) is another success story, improving its status from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Originally, it was listed as Extinct in the Wild in 1996, but thanks to a captive breeding programme and a successful reintroduction programme, the population is now estimated at more than 300.
Reptiles make up a significant component of biodiversity, particularly in dryland habitats and on islands around the world. In recent years, many more reptile species have been assessed including most of those found in Madagascar. The current Red List reveals that an alarming 40 percent of Madagascar’s terrestrial reptiles are threatened. The 22 Madagascan species currently identified as Critically Endangered, which include chameleons, geckoes, skinks and snakes, are now a conservation challenge. This new information helps inform biodiversity planning and allows for an evaluation of the protection that protected areas in Madagascar offer reptiles. Encouragingly, there are new conservation areas being designated in Madagascar that will help conserve a significant proportion of Critically Endangered species, such as Tarzan’s Chameleon (Calumma tarzan), the Bizarre-nosed Chameleon (Calumma hafahafa) and the Limbless Skink (Paracontias fasika). Because of their IUCN Red List status, species which have traditionally been overlooked in conservation efforts, such as the Endangered geckos Paroedura masobe and Uroplatus pietschmanni will now be featured more prominently in future plans.
Plants are an essential resource for human well-being and are a critical component for wildlife habitats, yet they are still underrepresented on the IUCN Red List. Current work underway to increase knowledge includes a review of all Conifers. The results so far uncover some disturbing trends. The Chinese Water Fir (Glyptostrobus pensilis), for example, which was formerly widespread throughout China and Viet Nam has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered. The main cause of decline is the loss of habitat to expanding intensive agriculture and in China there appear to be no wild plants remaining. The largest group of recently discovered Chinese Water Fir in Lao People's Democratic Republic was killed through flooding for a newly constructed hydro scheme and very few, if any, of the trees in Viet Nam produce viable seeds, meaning that this species is rapidly moving towards becoming Extinct in the Wild. Another example, Taxus contorta, which is used to produce Taxol, a chemotherapy drug, has moved from Vulnerable to Endangered due to over-exploitation for medicinal use and over-collection for fuel wood and fodder. Many other tropical plant species are also at risk. The majority of endemic flowering plants in the granitic Seychelles islands have been assessed and current studies show that of the 79 endemic species, 77 percent are at risk of extinction. Most of these are new assessments but one species, the infamous Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) has been uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered. Known for its supposed aphrodisiac properties, the Coco de Mer faces threats from fires and illegal harvesting of its kernels. Presently, all collection and sale of its seed is highly regulated, but there is thought to be a significant black market trade in the kernels.
The IUCN Red List keeps apace with scientific discoveries—for example, until recently only one species of Manta Ray was known, but new comparisons of field observations now reveal that there are actually two species of ‘manta’—the Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) and the Giant Manta Ray (Manta birostris), both of which are now classified as Vulnerable. The Giant Manta Ray is the largest living ray, which can grow to more than seven meters across. Manta Ray products have a high value in international trade markets and targeted fisheries hunt them for their valuable gill rakers used in traditional Chinese medicine. Monitoring and regulation of the exploitation and trade of both manta ray species is urgently needed, as well as protection of key habitats.
The results of the assessments of all species of scombrids (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins) were published recently in the magazine Science. The detailed results now on the IUCN Red List show that the situation is particularly serious for tunas. Five of the eight species of tuna are in the threatened or Near Threatened categories. These include—Southern Bluefin (Thunnus maccoyii), Critically Endangered; Atlantic Bluefin (T. thynnus), Endangered; Bigeye (T. obesus), Vulnerable; Yellowfin (T. albacares), Near Threatened; and Albacore (T. alalunga), Near Threatened. This information will be invaluable in helping governments make decisions which will safeguard the future of these species, many of which are of extremely high economic value.
The assessment for the Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), an iconic salmon species found in the North Pacific, was recently reviewed. Whilst the species’ global status remains the same, Least Concern, the assessment at the subpopulation scale shows elevated threats to the species in its North America habitats, with 31 percent of the assessed subpopulations threatened, underscoring the need for continued conservation action.
Amphibians form a vital role in ecosystems, are indicators of environmental health, and are literally hopping pharmacies being used in the search for new medicines. As one of the most threatened groups, amphibians are closely monitored by IUCN and 26 recently discovered amphibians have been added to the IUCN Red List. The Blessed Poison Frog (Ranitomeya benedicta) is currently listed as Vulnerable and the Summers’ Poison Frog (Ranitomeya summersi) is Endangered. Both are threatened by habitat loss and harvesting for the international pet trade.
“The IUCN Red List is critical as an indicator of the health of biodiversity, in identifying conservation needs and informing necessary changes in policy and legislation to drive conservation forward,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, deputy director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “The world is full of marvelous species that are rapidly moving towards becoming things of myth and legend if conservation efforts are not more successfully implemented—if we do not act now, future generations may not know what a Chinese Water Fir or a Bizarre-nosed Chameleon look like.”
Quotes from IUCN Red List Partner Organizations
“Red list assessments are essential for guiding conservation action. Botanic gardens around the world use the IUCN Red List to prioritize which species to study, grow, conserve and restore in the wild,” says Dr Sara Oldfield, secretary general of Botanic Gardens Conservation International. “The latest update shows that we need to act urgently.”
“Protected areas are essential for conservation of Madagascar’s many reptiles and other threatened endemic species,” says Russell Mittermeier, Conservation International president and vice president of IUCN. “Indeed without them, few of these unique creatures would survive. We are still far from understanding the full diversity of Madagascar’s fauna and flora since species new to science are being discovered every year.”
"There are 380,000 species of plants named and described, with about 2,000 being added to the list every year. At Kew we estimate one in five of these are likely to be under threat of extinction right now, before we even factor in the impacts of climate change,” says Dr. Tim Entwisle, director, Conservation, Living Collections and Estates, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “The Red Listing process highlights the state of knowledge for some of the critical groups like conifers and is the first step towards understanding and dealing with one of the biggest problems we have to face in the 21st Century—species extinction. For plants we are calibrating the Barometer of Life—for their relatives, the fungi and algae, we still have little sense of what is out there and what we are losing."
“Each update of the IUCN Red List brings both encouraging and discouraging news. First it demonstrates that concentrated conservation actions, backed by solid natural and social science and local engagement, will result in successful efforts to conserve threatened species,” says Thomas E. Lacher, Jr., professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University. “However it also demonstrates that there is much still to accomplish, with worsening conditions for many species, including those only recently described.”
“It is clear to me that society now has the capability to reverse species declines,” says Prof. Jonathan Baillie, director of Conservation Programmes at ZSL. “Fundamentally, it is our values that need to change if we are to avert the looming extinction crisis.”
“Expanding both the number and diversity of species assessed on the IUCN Red List is imperative if we are to conserve the natural world,” says Richard Edwards, chief executive of Wildscreen, who are working with the IUCN to help raise the public profile of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife and environmental imagery. “We need to address our disconnection from the natural world, and will only succeed in rescuing species from the brink of extinction, if we successfully communicate their plight, significance, value and importance.”
For more information, click here.
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
- Biden Commits to Banning Fossil Fuel Subsidies After DNC Dropped It ›
- As Biden Embraces More Ambitious Climate Plan, Fossil Fuel Execs ... ›
- Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate and Green Recovery Plan ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Grayson Jaggers
The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.
- 15 Indigenous Crops to Boost Your Immune System and Celebrate ... ›
- 15 Supplements to Boost Your Immune System Right Now - EcoWatch ›
- Should I Exercise During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Experts ... ›
- The Immune System's Fight Against the Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.
- FDA Approves First In-Home Test for Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
- When Should You Get a COVID-19 or Antibody Test? - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Plans to End Federal Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites ... ›
- Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial Into Agency Reports ... ›
- Climate Denier Is Named to Leadership Role at NOAA - EcoWatch ›
New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.