September 1, 2012
One-Fifth Of World’s Invertebrate Species Face Extinction
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Twenty percent of the invertebrate species across the globe -- spineless creatures ranging from earthworms to bees to butterflies to lobsters and beyond -- are facing the possible risk of extinction unless more is done to protect them, say researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
As part of their 87-page study, ZSL scientists joined forces with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to review more than 12,000 invertebrate species listed on the organization's Red List of Threatened Species.
They discovered that an estimated one-fifth of those species are threatened to the point that they could eventually die out, with freshwater creatures most at risk of extinction, followed by terrestrial invertebrates and marine creatures without backbones, the organization said in an August 31 online report.
"The highest risk of extinction tends to be associated with species that are less mobile and are only found in small geographical areas," the ZSL said. "For example, vertebrate amphibians and invertebrate freshwater mollusks both face high levels of threat -- around one third of species. In contrast, invertebrate species which are more mobile like dragonflies and butterflies face a similar threat to that of birds, and around one tenth of species are at risk."
The scientists report that the creatures face a vast array of different threats, with mollusks suffering from pollution originating from agricultural sources and construction and crayfish facing threats from invasive species and illness. Furthermore, they told Alister Doyle of Reuters that the creatures, which lack internal skeletons, have also been threatened by global warming, habitat loss, and over-exploitation.
"We knew that roughly one fifth of vertebrates and plants were threatened with extinction, but it was not clear if this was representative of the small spineless creatures that make up the majority of life on the planet," Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL's director of conservation, told BBC Nature Reporter Ella Davies on Friday. "The initial findings in this report indicate that 20% of all species may be threatened“¦ This is particularly concerning as we are dependent on these spineless creatures for our very survival."
"We need to successfully communicate the significance and value of invertebrate life, if we are to rescue the many thousands of threatened species from the brink of extinction," added Richard Edwards, Chief Executive of IUCN Red List partner Wildscreen, an advocacy group working to promote biodiversity through wildlife photography. “This important report highlights the impact we are having on the world´s invertebrate biodiversity, species we all rely on for healthy natural systems, sustainable livelihoods and human well-being."
ZSL representatives will be presenting their research, entitled "Spineless: Status and Trends of the World´s Invertebrates," on September 7 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in the autonomous South Korean province of Jeju.