November 3, 2009

Red List Of Endangered Species Continues To Grow

The updated global "Red List" of endangered species on Tuesday showed that more than 1,000 freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction, reflecting the strain on global water resources, AFP reported.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) covers more than 47,000 of the world's species and is the most respected inventory of biodiversity.

Among the 3,120 freshwater fish observed, scientists found that 1,147, or a third, are now threatened with extinction.

Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of species program at the IUCN, said creatures living in freshwater have long been neglected and this year they have again added a large number of them to the IUCN Red List and are confirming the high levels of threat to many freshwater animals and plants.

He warned that the finding severely reflect the state of our previous water resources.

"There is now an urgency to pursue our effort but more importantly, to start using this information to move towards a wise use of water resources," he added.

Some 1,360 species of dragonflies and damselflies were also added to the Red List, and experts found that out of 1,989 in all, 261 were at risk of disappearing.

Vie said dragonflies provided a good gauge of the state of freshwater ecosystems as "many are very sensitive" to changes.

He warned that dragonflies were highly threatened wherever they looked and also noted that water resources were under strain due to pollution and intensive usage.

Also joining the list of creatures that are now extinct in the wild was the tiny Kihansi Spray Toad, which once numbered at least 17,000 at the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania.

The IUCN said in a statement that its decline is due to the construction of a dam upstream of the Kihansi Falls that removed 90 percent of the original water flow to the gorge.

Well over a third, or 17,291 species out of 47,677 assessed, are now threatened with extinction, according to this year's survey.

The Rabb's fringe-limbed tree frog, which only became known to science four years ago, is one of 1,895 amphibian species that could also soon disappear in the wild.

The Red List examined 44,838 species last year and found that a similar proportion (16,298 species) was close to becoming extinct.

But according to the IUCN, the overall situation may be worse than reflected since data was lacking for 14 percent of the species surveyed. The survey also only covers a fraction of the world's species.

Craig Hilton-Taylor, manager of the IUCN Red List unit, said these results are just the tip of the iceberg.

"We have only managed to assess 47,663 species so far; there are many more millions out there which could be under serious threat," he said.

The latest Red List update "should cause alarm over the continuing unprecedented loss of species and the failure so far of mechanisms to arrest biodiversity loss," according to the environmental group WWF.

Amanda Nickson, Director of the WWF International Species Program, said this is a wake-up call for world leaders, as crucial climate talks in Copenhagen draw near and the International Year of Biodiversity is just around the corner.


Image Caption: This image is of a relatively small Australian grayling, caught from a small coastal stream in south-west Victoria. The grayling was carefully released after the photo. This species was assessed as Vulnerable in 1996. It has now been downlisted to Near Threatened as its status has genuinely improved since then. The species is known only from coastal drainages of south-eastern Australia; it also occurs in Tasmania and King Island in the Bass Strait.  Credit: Nathan Litjens - Wikipedia


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