Most species at greatest risk from climate change are not currently conservation priorities, finds an IUCN study
In what can be a major finding, species which are currently not under conservation priorities have been found to be at greater risk from climate change than those species that are under conservation priorities.
A paper published in the journal PLOS ONE revealed that species that have not made to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species are more prone to the affects of climate change.
The study is one of the biggest of its kind, assessing all of the world’s birds, amphibians and corals, on the work of more than 100 scientists and over a period of five years.
According to the study, out of the 16,857 species assessed, up to 83% of birds, 66% of amphibians and 70% of corals that were identified as highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“They are therefore unlikely to be receiving focused conservation attention,” states the study.
It was found that only 6-9% of the bird species, 11-15% of the amphibian, and 6-9% coral species are both highly climate change vulnerable and are already threatened with extinction on the IUCN Red List.
According to the leader of the Study, Wendy Foden of IUCN Global Species Program, the findings revealed alarming surprises.
“We hadn’t expected that so many species and areas that were not previously considered to be of concern would emerge as highly vulnerable to climate change.
Wendy Foden added that if conservation efforts carry on as usual without taking climate change into account, it will be late to help many of the species and areas that need it most.
The study looked at the unique biological and ecological characteristics that make species more or less sensitive or adaptable to climate change. The conventional methods have focused largely on measuring the amount of change to which species are likely to be exposed.
The Amazon emerges as a region of high climate change vulnerability for both birds and amphibians, due to the large overall number and proportions of such species occurring there. For birds, large numbers of highly climate change vulnerable species are found in Mesoamerica, central Eurasia, the Congo basin, the Himalayas and Sundaland.
For amphibians, in addition to the Amazon, high proportions of highly climate change vulnerable species occur in Mesoamerica, the northern Andes, North Africa, and eastern Russia to Mongolia, the Himalayas, and the western Arabian Peninsula. The highly climate change vulnerable corals are concentrated in the Coral Triangle, Sumatra and Java.
According to MacArthur Foundation, the major funder of the study, keeping ecosystems healthy and intact will play a key role in helping human societies adapt to changing climates and by highlighting those species in need of the most urgent attention, the study helps to show the parts of the world where this needs to be focused.
“We cannot afford to be complacent about the study’s results. Highly climate change vulnerable species require targeted action to help them adapt to on-going and future climate,” says a key investigator of the study, Stuart Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International.