- Humanity knows, in a best-case scenario, only 20% of the total species on Earth.
- Yet humans have, at a minimum, increased species extinction 1,000 times above the natural extinction rate, raising concerns among field monitoring experts who worry they may be “writing the obituary of a dying planet.”
- The establishment of protected areas often depends on the ability of conservationists to effectively monitor and track land-based species — but is this happening fast enough?
- For this episode of “Problem Solved,” Mongabay breaks down three of the most innovative pieces of conservation technology and how they can advance the field of species monitoring, and ultimately, conservation.
During what scientists have named the “Sixth Mass Extinction” (the fifth one wiped out the dinosaurs), conservationists are racing against the clock to carry out critical monitoring as quickly as possible to aid in the creation of protected areas. We are on track to lose 30–50% of all species by 2050.
In the third installment of the YouTube series “Problem Solved,” Mongabay looks at the potential of emerging conservation technology to speed up this process of monitoring. Watch the full video here:
Relying solely on current or former species-monitoring technology presents a problem for conservationists. “If we go too slowly, are we writing just the obituary of a dying planet?” asks a member of a focus group from a survey conducted on conservation monitoring technology by WILDLABS, an online platform for conservation technology experts.
Conservation technology is not new. Take camera traps, for instance. While they have not always been widely used, scientists and conservationists have increasingly been relying upon them over the past decade to detect and monitor the presence of land-based species. For all the technological innovation that made camera trap usage feasible in the 2010s, conservationists are still left with (sometimes) millions of photographs to sort through. There is also a lot of other data to catalog and analyze when information is collected via mobile apps and GIS (geographic information systems) and remote sensing.
But is this happening fast enough?
Scientists warn that the Earth could potentially lose as many as 500 land animals over the next 20 years (compared to the same amount that was lost over the previous century). Time, as they say, is not on our side. A study by WILDLABS published late last year names three particular pieces of conservation tech as having significant potential to aid conservationists in carrying out field monitoring work: environmental DNA (eDNA), networked sensors, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. These three technologies can streamline major logistical, labor and financial hurdles if used properly. Coupled with appropriate conservation programs, experts say high-quality population monitoring surveys of species are key to protecting our remaining biodiversity.
Speaker, T., O’Donnell, S., Wittemyer, G., Bruyere, B., Loucks, C., Dancer, A., … Solomon, J. (2022). A global community‐sourced assessment of the state of conservation technology. Conservation Biology, 36(3). doi:10.1111/cobi.13871
Banner Image: Still from an animation of a tiger in a forest from episode three of ‘Problem Solved,’ by Julia Lima.