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intensive agriculture and wildfires threaten over a quarter of europe’s grasshoppers and crickets

09 February 2017
Prionotropis rhodanica (Crau Plain Grasshopper). Photo: Axel Hochkirch

Over a quarter of European grasshopper, cricket and bush cricket species are being driven to extinction by unsustainable agricultural practices and the growing frequency of wildfires in Europe, a new IUCN report has found. 

The European Red List of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Bush crickets, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), assesses, for the first time, the conservation status of all of Europe’s 1,082 grasshopper, cricket and bush cricket species. It shows that over a quarter of these species are at risk of extinction, making them the most threatened of the insect groups assessed so far in Europe. More than 150 experts participated in the two-year assessment project, which was funded by the European Commission.

Sphingonotus nodulosus (Knotty Sand Grasshopper). Photo: Paulo Lemos“Europe’s rapidly changing landscape is affecting many species, including insects we are so familiar with, such as crickets and grasshoppers,” says Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director, IUCN Global Species Programme. “To bring these species back from the brink of extinction, more needs to be done to protect and restore their habitats. This can be done through sustainable grassland management using traditional agricultural practices for example. If we do not act now, the sound of crickets in European grasslands could soon become a thing of the past.”

Crickets, bush crickets and grasshoppers – a group known as Orthoptera – are an important food source for many of Europe’s birds and reptiles, and their decline could affect entire ecosystems. They are also indicators of ecosystem health and grassland biodiversity.

The intensification of agricultural land use, which leads to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of grassland habitats, has been identified as the main threat to the species. They are particularly affected by overgrazing, the overgrowing of abandoned pastures, the conversion of grassland or shrubland to cropland, the use of fertilisers and heavy machinery, frequent mowing and the use of pesticides. The Adriatic marbled bush cricket (Zeuneriana marmorata), for example, is now classed as Endangered due to the conversion of meadows into crop fields and the intensification of grassland management.

Orthoptera populations are also being decimated by escalating wildfires, particularly in Greece and on the Canary Islands. For instance, the Endangered Gran Canaria green bush cricket (Calliphona alluaudi) has lost about one quarter of its former range due to a large wildfire in 2007. Many coastal species are also affected by tourism development and urbanisation, such as the Endangered knotty sand grasshopper (Sphingonotus nodulosus), threatened by a large development project in Portugal.

Adequate adaptive management and monitoring schemes should be developed to conserve Orthoptera species, such as the Critically Endangered Crau plain grasshopper (Prionotropis rhodanica), which is restricted to the Crau plain in the South of France and has declined dramatically, according to the report. To reverse its decline, a conservation strategy has been developed and is being implemented.

Zeuneriana marmorata (Adriatic Marbled Bush-cricket)“The results from this IUCN Red List are deeply worrying,” says Luc Bas, Director, IUCN European Regional Office. “Healthy populations of these insects are key to maintaining sustainable ecosystems in Europe, which provide the basis for social and economic well-being. The need for better implementation of the EU Nature Directives has recently been recognised as a priority by the European Commission and will certainly contribute towards improving the status of these species in Europe, especially those found in Natura 2000 sites.”

The report recommends the establishment of a pan-European monitoring programme for cricket, bush cricket and grasshopper species to obtain information on population trends.

“The IUCN Red List has already helped by putting Orthoptera species with a high extinction risk on the conservation agenda,” says Axel Hochkirch, Chair of the IUCN SSC Grasshopper Specialist Group and lead author of the report. “But our knowledge of the population trends of crickets, bush crickets and grasshoppers is still scarce, and almost 10% of species have been assessed as Data Deficient due to lack of data. We urgently need more research and resources to prevent other species from going extinct unnoticed.”

Download full publication here

For more information or interviews please contact:

Bianca Vergnaud, IUCN media relations, IUCN European Regional office, m +32 47 188 70 95,



German resolution reaffirms IUCN’s position on the international stage

26 January 2017
Photo: © Matthias Zepper CC BY 2.0

The German government has officially recognised IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as an intergovernmental organisation, reaffirming the Union’s important role on the global environmental and development stage.

On Wednesday, the German Cabinet passed a regulation defining the legal status of IUCN as an “organisation created by intergovernmental agreement”. This decision recognises the official functions IUCN carries out on behalf of its Member States and affords the Union a range of rights and benefits. The new legal status will allow IUCN to build on its strong presence in the city of Bonn, home to the IUCN Environmental Law Centre. The regulation will now go to the ‘Bundesrat’ for ratification in March 2017.

“IUCN is grateful to the German government and warmly welcomes this important recognition,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “This opens up new opportunities to boost international cooperation on environmental issues. IUCN’s new legal status will reinforce IUCN’s already strong relationship with Germany. It will also allow us to strengthen our collaboration with key international partners based in Bonn, such as the UNFCCC, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species.”

“This decision recognises IUCN’s important role in global efforts to conserve nature. It also reaffirms the position of the city of Bonn as a hub of international cooperation and the headquarters for international institutions and organisations,” says the German Minister for the Environment, Barbara Hendricks.

Founded in 1970, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre in Bonn is recognised as a leading global centre of excellence in environmental law. The Centre houses a joint initiative between UNEP, FAO and IUCN providing web-based access to the three organisations’ environmental law information as well as two extensive libraries.

“This decision reaffirms Germany’s commitment to IUCN and to the Environmental Law Centre,” says Alejandro Iza, Director of the IUCN Environmental Law Centre. “Germany and the city of Bonn have been excellent hosts for over four decades, and this recognition opens up new avenues of collaboration.”

IUCN and Germany have a long history of very close collaboration. The German government has been an IUCN State Member since 1958 and has provided significant support for IUCN’s work on issues including tiger conservation and protected areas.

In 2011, IUCN and Germany launched the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to restore 150 million hectares of the world's degraded and deforested lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. With over 136 million hectares pledged, the Challenge is within close reach of achieving its 2020 target.

This article is also available in Deutsch, to view this verson click here.



World Wetlands Day: Bolstering resilience and collaboration to reduce disaster risk

26 January 2017
Photo: ©Ramsar Convention

On February 2nd the world celebrates it's wetlands – complex ecosystems that provide a wide variety of services and benefits for people and  nature.  Yet wetlands are in danger; threatened with drainage for agriculture, degradation, pollution, and destruction at an alarming pace. A key role of wetlands is in reducing the effects of disasters by absorbing excess water from floods and coastal storm surges, and in storing water during droughts.

'Wetlands and disaster risk reduction' is the theme of World Wetlands Day 2017 (WWD17). Spearheaded by the Ramsar Convention, WWD17 will focus on how wetlands can be protected, restored, and managed effectively to help absorb the shocks of natural disasters.  Wetlands can help strengthen people and nature's resilience to disaster impacts. 

Data published in 2014 show that as much as 87% of natural wetland area has been lost since 1700, and 64% since 1900. Fully 80% of rivers in Asia were rated by the Asian Development Bank in 2013 as having poor health because of pollution and dams affecting river flows, sediment and nutrients. In the United States, some 750,000 km of rivers are classed as degraded – representing damaged waterways that would stretch 19 times around the planet.

As a result of this, between 1997 and 2011 it is estimated that we have lost many benefits that wetlands provide, from water capture and storage and filtration, the regulation of flood flows and food production.  Estimates put the value of these lost services at $2.7 trillion/yr for swamps and floodplains, and $7.2 trillion/yr for tidal marshes and mangroves.  Nothing has managed to stem this tragic loss of wetlands so far.  Much is at stake.

The frequency of disasters worldwide has more than doubled in just 35 years. Disasters are a major setback to development, resulting in loss of lives, livelihoods, critical assets, and disruption of services. UN Water estimates that 90% of all natural hazards are water-related. How can we protect wetlands for the many services they provide, and make the most of their natural ability to reduce the impact of flood and droughts?

A recently published IUCN report 'Collaboration for Resilience: How Collaboration among Business, Government, and NGOs could the the Key to Living with Turbulence and Change in the 21st Century' laid out key principles for improving people and nature's resilience to extreme events. 

Key recommendations presented in this report include:

·        intensify learning across sectors and promote leadership on resilience;

·        develop better metrics and data for assessing and monitoring resilience;

·        experiment with building resilience in an incubator network;

·        start to actively broker partnerships and financing for resilience projects.

IUCN and the Ramsar Convention have a longstanding collaboration on the wise use of wetlands, in addition to hosting the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, IUCN has collaborated with the Ramsar Convention in many ways, such as supporting countries accession to the Convention, scientific assistance in the designation of Ramsar sites, providing help at site level management, and supporting the capactiy to link local communities with government authorities to ensure the conservation of wetlands. This report 'IUCN-Ramsar Collaboration: Supporting the Wise Use of Wetlands', highlights cases and examples of IUCN's recent work in support of the Ramsar Convention.

A high-level roundtable entitled 'Healthy Wetlands, Resilient Communities' will take place in Geneva on 2 February (more information here). Worldwide events will be taking place to celebrate wetlands, including wetlands clean-ups, conferences, photo competitions etc.

Please see here to find, or create, an event:



New Red List reveals European habitats under threat

24 January 2017
Photo: John Janssen

For the first time, a total of 490 habitats across 35 countries in Europe have been assessed to determine their risk of collapse. The European Red List of Habitats, initiated by the European Commission, benefited from the knowledge and expertise of over 300 experts who reviewed the current status of all European natural and semi-natural terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats.

Photo: John JanssenThe assessment reveals that over a third of all land habitats are currently under threat, including more than three-quarters of bogs, over half of grasslands, and almost half of Europe's lakes, rivers and coasts. Forests, heaths and rocky habitats are overall less threatened, but remain of great concern. In Europe's neighbouring seas, mussels and seagrass beds and estuaries are threatened. Nearly a third of marine habitats in the Mediterranean Sea are at risk of collapse, as well as almost a quarter in the North-East Atlantic. Some habitats, particularly in the Black Sea, remain poorly studied and their status could not be determined.

The methodology used by the European Red List of Habitats is based on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria, a unified global standard for assessing ecosystem risk.The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems identifies ecosystems most at risk of biodiversity loss, raising awareness about threats to ecosystems and the resulting impacts on human well-being, as well as demonstrating how improved ecosystem management can reduce risks, enhance resilience, and promote adaptation.

Photo: Joop Schaminée“The European Red List of Habitats lays a foundation for future analyses that can contribute to the global IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, which is currently being worked on,” said Ed Barrow, Director, IUCN Global Ecosystem Management Programme. “As such, this effort is an important contribution for both assessing and monitoring European nature conservation and contributing to global efforts on ecosystem risk assessments.”

Numerous threats to Europe's habitats are causing a decline in both their health and extent. Land-use change from intensive farming, urbanisation and associated infrastructure development as well as drainage, pollution and invasion of alien plant and animal species all pose major threats to land-based habitats. Europe's seas are mostly threatened by pollution, nutrient enrichment, destructive fishing practices and coastal defence development. Some terrestrial and marine systems also show evidence of the damaging effects of climate change, with signs that these will likely worsen in the future.

Photo: John JanssenEuropean habitats are not just important for their intrinsic value but also for the vital ecosystem services they provide, such as soil protection, carbon capture, food provision and mitigation of the impacts of global warming.

"This first assessment is an important step towards a better understanding of the state of Europe's habitats," said Luc Bas, Director, IUCN European Regional Office." The Red List of Habitats aims to inform and help improve the implementation of EU policies such as the Nature Directives."

The European Red List of Habitats was coordinated by a partnership between Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra), IUCN, NatureBureau and consultants Susan Gubbay and John Rodwell.



First signs of seahorses and pipefishes decline in the Mediterranean

23 January 2017
Photo: ©Robert Pillon

For the first time,14 seahorses, pipefishes, and snipefishes native to the Mediterranean Sea were assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

Syngnathids are unique fish species that exhibit male pregnancy and give birth to live young. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ in the Mediterranean, almost 15% of seahorse assessed are listed as Near Threatened, which means that if current trends continue they will be soon threatened with extinction. More than half of these fish species lack enough information to estimate their risk of extinction in the region.Thus, further research is urgently needed to investigate their distribution, population trends, threats and determine if they require any conservation actions.

Photo: ©Robert PatznerSeahorses and pipefishes are mainly threatened by habitat loss and degradation caused by coastal development and destructive fishing gears such as trawls and dredges. They are also taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries and sometimes retained and targeted for sale to aquaria, used in traditional medicines, and as curious and religious amulets.

In order to face these growing threats, both Near Threatened seahorse species, Hippocampus hippocampus and Hippocampus guttulatus with a decline of 20-30% of their population in the last decades, are already protected through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and are also included in Annex II of the Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity Protocol of the Barcelona Convention (SPA/BD). Moreover, some Mediterranean countries such as Slovenia legally protect these species.

Unfortunately, these regulations are currently not sufficient to address issues such as bycatch and habitat damage due to trawling and dredging. Enforcement and expansion of restrictions on such activities are needed. In addition surveys and citizen science initiatives such as iSeahorse or iNaturalist can contribute to improve our knowledge of these unique fishes.

Photo: ©Robert PatzneThis study was undertaken through the Mediterranean Red List Initiative, which is coordinated by the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation and is supported by the MAVA Foundation, in collaboration with the Seahorse, Pipefish and Stickleback Specialist Group and the Global Species Programme.

The document is available here: The IUCN Red List of seahorses and pipefishes in the Mediterranean Sea



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