Extinctions are currently outpacing the capacity for new species to evolve, according to Simon Stuart, chair of the Species Survival Commission for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“Measuring the rate at which new species evolve is difficult, but there’s no question that the current extinction rates are faster,” Stuart told the Guardian. .
He added that E.O, Wilsons’ estimate that the extinction rate could rise to 10,000 times the background rate would likely prove prescient.
“All the evidence is he’s right,” Stuart told the Guardian. “Some people claim it already is that.”
The Panamanian golden frog, shown here with green infant, has recently gone extinct in the wild. It survives in captivity. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
In 2004 the IUCN estimated that the extinction rate had reached 100 to 1,000 times the background rate.
Currently the IUCN estimate that nearly half of the world’s primates are threatened with extinction, as well as one third of the world’s amphibians, nearly a quarter of the mammals, and over 10 percent of the birds. But to date the IUCN has only assessed 2.7 percent of the known 1.8 million species. In addition biologists estimate that millions and maybe even tens of millions of species have yet to be even described by scientists.
The world’s species are threatened by a variety of impacts; some of the largest include deforestation, climate change, habitat loss, ocean acidification, poaching and hunting, mining, disease, overfishing and bycatch, pollution, desertification, invasive species, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade, and the market for traditional medicines.
Extinct animals are quickly forgotten: the baiji and shifting baselines
(02/23/2010) In 2006 a survey in China to locate the endangered Yangtze River dolphin, known as the baiji, found no evidence of its survival. Despondent, researchers declared that the baiji was likely extinct. Four years later and the large charismatic marine mammal is not only ‘likely extinct’, but in danger of being forgotten, according to a surprising new study ‘Rapidly Shifting Baselines in Yangtze Fishing Communities and Local Memory of Extinct Species’ in Conservation Biology. Lead author of the study, Dr. Samuel Turvey, was a member of the original expedition in 2006. He returned to the Yangtze in 2008 to interview locals about their knowledge of the baiji and other vanishing megafauna in the river, including the Chinese paddlefish, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish. In these interviews Turvey and his team found clear evidence of ‘shifting baselines’: where humans lose track of even large changes to their environment, such as the loss of a top predator like the baiji.
Humans push half of the world’s primates toward extinction, lemurs in particular trouble
(02/18/2010) Of the known 634 primate species in the world 48 percent are currently threatened with extinction, making mankind’s closes relatives one of the most endangered animal groups in the world. In order to bring awareness to the desperate state of primates, a new report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature highlights twenty-five primates in the most need of rapid conservation action. Compiled by 85 experts the report, entitled Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010, includes six primates from Africa, eleven from Asia, three from Central and South America, and five from the island of Madagascar.
86 percent of dolphins and whales threatened by fishing nets
(02/07/2010) A new report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) finds that almost 9 out of 10 toothed whales—including dolphins and porpoises—are threatened by entanglement and subsequent drowning from large-scale fishing operations equipment, such as gillnets, traps, longlines, and trawls. These operations threaten the highest percentage (86 percent) of the world’s toothed whales.