New research finds that mass extinction is more threatening than previously calculated.
Human knowledge of endangered species has been proven insufficient, according to new research, and certain species may be more vulnerable to extinction now than previously believed.
According to study results published in ‘Communications Biology’, the conservation statuses for roughly 8,000 species with scant population data reveal a striking reality: more than half of those species are probably in danger of going extinct.
Jan Borgelt, a PhD candidate in industrial ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, served as the study’s principal investigator. Things could be “much worse than we actually realise,” he claims.
Borgelt and his team matched information from 7,699 species known globally to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
More than 147,000 species’ extinction concerns are currently categorised in that database. However, the researchers point out that up to 20% of species of plants, animals, and fungus lack sufficient data.
This makes it challenging to accurately determine their chances of survival. This information is essential for scientists and policymakers to prioritise conservation efforts and take appropriate action, thus causing a lack of understanding on how threatening extinction actually is.
Data can be scarce for a variety of reasons, such as environment or cryptic or hidden species—animals that may look alike but differ genetically.
Why is it more threatening than we think?
More than half of species with insufficient data are predicted to go extinct, according to Borgelt and his team’s model estimates.
Some groups, however, are more threatened than others, including 59% of reptiles, 62% of insects, 61% of mammals, including the recently recognised Rice’s whale, and 85% of amphibians, including the Sierra Miahuatlan spikethumb frog, which the researchers estimate has a 95% chance of going extinct.
The researchers looked at a total of 21 taxonomic groups, which Borgelt states is still “a tiny fraction of what exists in the world.”
The data also highlights regional threats, with Madagascar, Central Africa, and southern Asia being most at risk for extinction.
The researchers emphasise that one of the most concerning conclusions is that species with insufficient data may be more at risk of extinction than those with documented conservation statuses.
The research group says it is confident in the accuracy of its conclusions. Following the investigation, the IUCN amended the Red List to include 123 species that had been flagged as lacking sufficient documentation.
The latest changes showed that 75% of the animals added ended up being accurate predictions from Borgelt’s team.