This week, political leaders from around the world are gathered at the Rio+20 Summit to identify the path forward for our species. For many, achieving a sustainable future for the human race first requires us to admit the other species we’ve pushed to the brink.
Today in Rio, The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released its most recent Red List, a comprehensive index of the world’s most threatened species. The plants and animals assessed for the IUCN Red List are the bearers of genetic diversity and the building blocks of ecosystems, and information on their conservation status and distribution provides the foundation for making informed decisions about conserving biodiversity from local to global levels.
Just over the past decade, the number of species considered vulnerable, threatened, and critically endangered has risen steadily. According to BBC News, two thousand new species have been assessed for this edition of the Red List, bringing the total to 63,837.
As the graph below demonstrates, approximately 41 percent of all amphibians, 33 percent of reef-forming corals, 31 percent of sharks and rays, and 25 percent of mammals are considered threatened. And as the Red List summary acknowledges, these are just the more comprehensively assessed groups.
CR – Critically Endangered, EN – Endangered, VU – Vulnerable, NT – Near Threatened, DD – Data Deficient, LC – Least Concern
The IUCN Red List alone can’t do anything to change these results, but the researchers behind it hope that its stark realities will motivate world leaders to see the links between conservation and our own survival.
“Sustainability is a matter of life and death for people on the planet,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General at IUCN. “A sustainable future cannot be achieved without conserving biological diversity – animal and plant species, their habitats and their genes – not only for nature itself, but also for all 7 billion people who depend on it. The latest IUCN Red List is a clarion call to world leaders gathering in Rio to secure the web of life on this planet.”
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