Hundreds Of More Birds Species Might Be Endangered Than We Thought, Says Study

Posted: Nov 14 2016, 10:50am CST | by , Updated: Nov 14 2016, 10:27pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Hundreds of More Birds Species Might be Endangered than We Thought, Says Study
Photo credit: Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela
 

Duke University's experts find that the IUCN current Red List is missing hundreds of bird species that are at risk of extinction.

More than 200 bird species around the world are at risk of extinction despite being deemed non-threatened in IUCN Red List, a report from Duke University’s experts suggests. 

IUCN or International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s most comprehensive and trusted database of global biodiversity which classifies animals or birds as “vulnerable”, “endangered” and “critically endangered,” depending on the population of each species. But a new research reveals that hundreds of bird species from six of the world’s most biodiverse places are at immediate risk of extinction but they have not been included in IUCN Red List of at-risk species, which inevitably slim their chances of receiving federal or local authorities’ protection and push them further towards extinction. 

The study also exposes the flawed nature of IUCN's existing system and reinforces the need to upgrade it urgently by incorporating new technologies like satellite and aerial imaging. 

Since 1964, endangered species have been tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Switzerland. Their Red List determines threat level of a species according to the population and changes in the habitat of a species.

The database is compiled by using statistics from studies by scientists and conservationists, as well as those provided by tens of thousands of volunteer and professional naturalists. The method is international standard but is failing to provide more realistic and authentic numbers.

“Good as it is, the Red List assessment process dates back 25 years and does not make use of advances in geospatial technologies that have placed powerful new tools at our fingertips, including vastly improved digital maps, regular global assessments of land use changes from satellite images, and maps showing which areas of the planet are protected by national parks.” Stuart Pimm, conservation biologist at Duke University and one of the researchers involved in the study said.

For the latest study, researchers selected 586 endemic and threatened forest bird species from Brazil, Central America, the western Andes of Colombia, Sumatra, Madagascar and Southeast Asia and used remote sensing data to map recent changes in birds’ distribution range, elevation and forest coverage.

Researchers found that 210 of bird species were facing accelerated risk of extinction and should be placed higher at IUCN threatened category than they currently are. Only 108 were classified by IUCN as being at risk of extinction from 586 species. Most of them are either misclassified or deemed non threatened altogether. 

“We find that 43% of species fall below the range threshold where comparable species are deemed threatened. Some 210 bird species belong in a higher threat category than the current Red List placement, including 189 species that are currently deemed nonthreatened.” Authors wrote in the study

“Incorporating readily available spatial data substantially increases the number of species that should be considered at risk and alters priority areas for conservation.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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