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New extinction hotspots identified

Future biodiversity extinction hotspots identified

Future biodiversity extinction hotspots identified
Rhett A. Butler,
March 7, 2006

Scientists have identified 20 potential extinction hotspots where hunting and human-caused habitat destruction are set to suffer significant declines in animal populations in coming years.

In developing their map of future extinction hotspots, the researchers analyzed current and predicted IUCN Red List data on the extinction risk to almost 4,000 species of land mammals. Their roster includes areas not typically found on lists of the world’s most imperiled habitats, including Greenland, the Patagonian coast of South America, and Siberian tundra.

Lead author, Marcel Cardillo of Imperial College London, says that the aim of the project is to help policy makers determine how to allocate funds for conservation in the future. Presently, the focus of most conservation efforts is on currently threatened and endangered species but, argues Cardillo, conservationists should not neglect species that, due to their biology, could be more vulnerable to future changes in their habitat.

“We can see this leapfrogging happening now, for example with the Guatemalan howler monkey, which was classified as being on the ‘least concern’ list in 2000 but which moved to the ‘endangered’ list in 2004 as it lost much of its forest habitat,” said Cardillo. “We hope conservationists will use our findings to pre-empt future species losses rather than concentrating solely on those species already under threat.”

Courtesy of Science

Andy Purvis, also of Imperial College London and a co-author of the research, adds “Most conservation resources are spent in regions where the conflict between people and the natural system is entrenched. That’s understandable, because we can see the damage that we are doing and we want to put it right, but repairing damage tends to be very expensive. Latent risk hotspots might provide cost-effective options for conservation; they’re places that are relatively intact, and preventing damage is likely to be cheaper and more effective than trying to repair it.”

The list, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, includes Southern Polynesia, Greenland, the Andaman and Nicobar islands, the Melanesian Islands, Maluku, the Bahamas, New Guinea, Lesser Antilles, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Tasmania and Bass Strait, Borneo, the Siberian tundra, Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, Eastern Canadian forests, the Pantagonian coast, Western Java, and the East Indian highlands. Of the 20 potential hotspots, 7 are parts of Indonesia where deforestation and high population growth rates have resulted in significant changes in available wildlife habitat over the past 20 years.

As defined by Conservation International, current global biodiversity hotspots include the California Floristic Province; Caribbean Islands; Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands in Mexico; Mesoamerica; Brazil’s Atlantic Forest; the Cerrado grassland ecosystem in Brazil; Chilean Winter Rainfall-Valdivian Forests; Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena in Colombia; the tropical Andes of South America; the Caucasus of Central Asia; Irano-Anatolian of the Middle East; the Mediterranean Basin; and the mountains of Central Asia; the Cape Floristic region of South Afria; coastal forests of Eastern Africa; montane forests of Eastern Africa; the Guinean Forests of West Africa; the Horn of Africa; Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands; Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany in southeastern Africa; and the succulent Karoo region of southwestern Africa; East Melanesian Islands; the Himalayan region; the “Indo-Burma” region consisting of continental southeast Asia; Japan; the mountains of Southwest China; New Caledonia; New Zealand; the Philippines; Polynesia-Micronesia; southwest Australia; Sundaland of Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java; Wallacea of Indonesia; and the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka.

Marcel Cardillo (Imperial College London, Zoological Society of London); Georgina M. Mace (Zoological Society of London); John L Gittleman (University of Virginia); Andy Purvis (Imperial College London). “Latent extinction risk and the future battlegrounds of mammal conservation” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 6 March 2006.

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