In most future scenarios that enable the sustainable use of wild species, the authors find that transformative changes share common characteristics such as equitable distribution of costs and benefits, changes in social values and effective governance systems.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently noted, there is an urgent need to develop a new paradigm that recognizes the value of nature and understands that life quality is not purely a matter of GDP. Currently, governments around the world spend more than US $500 billion every year in ways that harm biodiversity to support industries like fossil fuels, agriculture and fisheries. Experts say these funds should be repurposed to incentivize regenerative agriculture, sustainable food systems and nature-positive innovations.
With one million species currently under threat, here are five groups of species you may not have known were endangered:
The report highlights that several plant groups are threatened due to unsustainable gathering, including cacti, which face issues such as habitat loss and the illegal plant trade. A 2015 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report revealed that 31 per cent of the world’s 1,500 cacti species are under threat. The threats cacti face are myriad, from horticulture and private collecting to use as food and medicine, with the roots of some species used as an anti-inflammatory.
Seaweeds are one of the planet’s great survivors, with relatives of some modern-day seaweeds being traced back 1.6 billion years. Seaweeds play a vital role in marine ecosystems, providing habitats and food for marine lifeforms, while large seaweeds – such as kelp – act as underwater nurseries for fish. Seaweeds also have a wide range of uses, from fertilizing soil to animal and fish feed to biomass for fuel as well as food. Seaweeds also play an important role in combating climate change: 9 per cent of the ocean is forested with seaweeds, which sequesters a huge amount of carbon. Seaweeds are declining due to mechanical dredging, rising sea temperatures and the building of coastal infrastructure.
The report mentions that large-bodied mammals are unsurprisingly the most targeted species for subsistence and commercial hunting, as they provide more meat for consumption and sale. One such mammal under threat is the giraffe. There are approximately 68,000 giraffes left in the wild, comprising four species and eight sub-species, which differ greatly in terms of population. For example, there are only 600 West African giraffes left in the wild, while there are around 45,000 Masai giraffes left. The main causes of giraffe depopulation are habitat degradation and loss due to unsustainable wood harvesting and increased demand for agricultural land. There is also a demand for giraffe meat and ornamentation made from giraffe bones and skin.
The report reveals more than 1,000 species of birds, reptiles, fish and mammals are legally and illegally traded for personal and commercial use as pets. Although the total dollar value of species traded as pets is less than 1 per cent of the total trade of wild species, the number of animals traded is in the millions. For example, 16 million live CITES-listed parrots in 321 species were traded internationally between 1975 and 2016. Parrots are also at risk due to habitat loss from agriculture and logging. According to the IUCN Red List, 116 of the world’s 375 parrot species are listed as vulnerable, endangered or worse.
The world’s trees are threatened by various sources, including logging, deforestation for industry and agriculture, firewood for heating and cooking, and climate-related threats such as wildfires. An estimated 31 per cent of the world’s 430 oak species are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List, while 41 per cent are of conservation concern, mainly due to deforestation for agriculture and fuel for cooking. The highest number of threatened oak species are Mexico (32 species), China (36), Vietnam (20), and the United States (16).
UN Biodiversity Conference
Despite on-going efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide and this decline is projected to worsen with business-as-usual scenarios. The UN Biodiversity Conference will convene governments from around the world to agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 framework process. The framework sets out an ambitious plan to implement broad-based action to bring about a transformation in society’s relationship with biodiversity and to ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.