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Most threatened species need targeted action to survive

A staggering 57 percent of threatened species need targeted recovery actions to survive, according to a new study led by Newcastle University. Governments around the world are currently negotiating a Global Biodiversity Framework that will outline goals and targets for saving nature. The plan is expected to be adopted by the end of 2022. 

The study explored how the framework may potentially reduce the risk of extinction of threatened species. The research project brought together leading ecology and conservation experts, including scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), BirdLife International and a global network of universities.

While targets to expand protected areas or reduce pollution will benefit many species, 57 percent would still need targeted recovery actions. These actions include captive breeding in zoos, reintroduction into the wild, vaccination against disease, and other-specific interventions.

According to Professor Philip McGowan, many species will benefit from policies and actions designed to reduce threats from land- and sea-use change, overexploitation, pollution, and climate, but these alone will not remove the risk of extinction. “Now, we can identify the species that need such action, and we can monitor what is being done and what the impact of action is on those threatened species.”

The research was based on the The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Of which, 7,784 species are listed as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. The team considered the targets in the first draft of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s framework.

The study looked at the potential benefits of each target for each threatened species. Target 1 (on planning to retain existing intact ecosystems), Target 2 (on restoring degraded ecosystems and ensuring connectivity among them), and Target 3 (on protecting important areas for biodiversity) were found to benefit 95 percent of threatened species.

The team also found that these actions, and the remaining targets, still leave nearly 60 percent of threatened species (4,428) at risk of extinction. 

“This research shows that we can’t stop species from going extinct just by protecting particular areas and addressing key threats: some species need dedicated efforts to help them recover,” said study co-author Dr. Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at BirdLife International.

The findings highlight the critical importance for governments to implement conservation for unique plants and animals. The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

By Katherine Bucko, Staff Writer

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