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New bird species and giraffe under threat – IUCN Red List

08 December 2016
The conservation status of the Monserrat oriole (Icterus oberi) has improved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable. Photo: © D. McCoy.

Cancun, Mexico, 8 December 2016 (IUCN) – Over 700 newly recognised bird species have been assessed for the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, and 11% of them are threatened with extinction. The update also reveals a devastating decline for the giraffe, driven by habitat loss, civil unrest and illegal hunting. The global giraffe population has plummeted by up to 40% over the last 30 years, and the species has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Today’s IUCN Red List update also includes the first assessments of wild oats, barley, mango and other crop wild relative plants. These species are increasingly critical to food security, as their genetic diversity can help improve crop resistance to disease, drought and salinity.

The update was released today at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) in Cancun, Mexico. The IUCN Red List now includes 85,604 species of which 24,307 are threatened with extinction.

“Many species are slipping away before we can even describe them,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “This IUCN Red List update shows that the scale of the global extinction crisis may be even greater than we thought. Governments gathered at the UN biodiversity summit in Cancun have the immense responsibility to step up their efforts to protect our planet’s biodiversity – not just for its own sake but for human imperatives such as food security and sustainable development.”

Birds: Newly recognised, already threatened

This IUCN Red List update includes the reassessment of all bird species. Thanks to a comprehensive taxonomic review compiled by BirdLife International, working in collaboration with the Handbook of the Birds of the World, the overall number of bird species assessed has reached 11,121.

A total of 742 newly recognised bird species have been assessed, 11% of which are threatened. For example, the recently described Antioquia wren (Thryophilus sernai) has been listed as Endangered as more than half of its habitat could be wiped out by a single planned dam construction. Habitat loss to agriculture and degradation by invasive plants have also pushed the striking Comoro blue vanga (Cyanolanius comorensis) into the Endangered category.

Thirteen of the newly recognised bird species enter the IUCN Red List as Extinct. Several of these have been lost within the past 50 years – such as the Pagan reed-warbler (Acrocephalus yamashinae), O’ahu akepa (Loxops wolstenholmei) and Laysan honeycreeper (Himatione fraithii). All of these species were endemic to islands, and were most likely wiped out by invasive species.

“Unfortunately, recognising more than 700 ‘new’ species does not mean that the world's birds are faring better,” says Dr Ian Burfield, BirdLife’s Global Science Coordinator. “As our knowledge deepens, so our concerns are confirmed: unsustainable agriculture, logging, invasive species and other threats – such as the illegal trade highlighted here – are still driving many species towards extinction." 

IUCN Red List assessments also reveal that some of the world's most popular birds may soon disappear in the wild if appropriate action isn't taken. Iconic species, such as the African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) – a prized pet with the ability to mimic human speech – are facing extinction in the wild due to unsustainable trapping and habitat loss. Native to central Africa, the grey parrot has seen its conservation status deteriorate from Vulnerable to Endangered. A study led by BirdLife International discovered that in some parts of the continent numbers of grey parrots have declined by as much as 99%.

The situation is most pressing in Asia, with the rufous-fronted laughingthrush (Garrulax rufifrons), scarlet-breasted lorikeet (Trichoglossus forsteni) and Straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) among a suite of species being uplisted to higher threat categories as a result of the impacts of illegal wildlife trade. There is now evidence that unsustainable levels of capture for the cagebird trade, largely centred on Java, are driving the deteriorating status of many species.

However, there is good news for some of the rarest and most vulnerable birds on our planet – those that exist only on small, isolated islands. The Azores bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina), St Helena plover (Charadrius sanctaehelenae) and Seychelles white-eye (Zosterops modestus) are among the island endemic species to move to lower categories in this IUCN Red List update, as their populations recover from the brink of extinction thanks to tireless conservation efforts.


The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is now threatened with extinction.Photo: IUCN Photo Library © Alicia WirzThe iconic giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), one of the world's most recognisable animals and the tallest land mammal, is now threatened with extinction. The species, which is widespread across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated subpopulations in west and central Africa, has moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable due to a dramatic 36-40% decline from approximately 151,702-163,452 individuals in 1985 to 97,562 in 2015.

The growing human population is having a negative impact on many giraffe subpopulations. Illegal hunting, habitat loss and changes through expanding agriculture and mining, increasing human-wildlife conflict, and civil unrest are all pushing the species towards extinction. Of the nine subspecies of giraffe, three have increasing populations, whilst five have decreasing populations and one is stable.

A resolution adopted at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September this year called for action to reverse the decline of the giraffe.

Crop wild relatives

Spring wild oat (Avena fatua) is among the crop wild relative species assessed for this update. Photo: © StephaneWith this update, the first assessments of 233 wild relatives of crop plants such as barley, oats and sunflowers have been added to the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss, primarily due to agricultural expansion, is the major threat to many of these species. The assessments were completed as part of a partnership between Toyota Motor Corporation and IUCN, whose aim is to broaden the IUCN Red List to include the extinction risk of many species that are key food sources for a significant portion of the global population.

Crop wild relatives are a source of genetic material for new and existing crop species, allowing for increased disease and drought resistance, fertility, nutritional value and other desirable traits. Almost every species of plant that humans have domesticated and now cultivate has one or more crop wild relatives. However, these species have received little systematic conservation attention until now.

Four mango species have been listed as Endangered, and the Kalimantan mango (Mangifera casturi) has been listed as Extinct in the Wild. These species are relatives of the common mango (Mangifera indica) and are threatened by habitat loss. Native to South Asia, mangoes are now cultivated in many tropical and sub-tropical countries and they are one of the most commercially important fruits in these regions.

A relative of cultivated asparagus, hamatamabouki (Asparagus kiusianus), which is native to Japan, has been listed as Endangered due to habitat loss caused by urban expansion and agriculture. Loss of habitat is also the main threat to the Anomalus sunflower (Helianthus anomalus) which has been listed as Vulnerable and is a relative of the sunflower (H. annuus). Cicer bijugum, native to Iran and Turkey, is a wild relative of the chickpea (C. arietinum); it has been listed as Endangered due to habitat conversion to agriculture.       

“Crop wild relative species are under increasing threat from urbanisation, habitat fragmentation and intensive farming, and probably climate change,” says Mr. Kevin Butt, General Manager, Regional Environmental Sustainability Director, Toyota Motor North America. “To conserve this vital gene pool for crop improvement we need to urgently improve our knowledge about these species. Toyota is pleased to provide support for the assessment of these and other species on The IUCN Red List.”  

Freshwater species – Lake Victoria

All freshwater molluscs, crabs, dragonflies and freshwater fishes native to Lake Victoria in central Africa are included in this update. Key threats to Lake Victoria – known as Darwin’s dream pond due to its high biodiversity – include invasive species such as the Nile perch (Lates niloticus), overharvesting, sedimentation due to logging and agriculture, as well as water pollution from pesticides and herbicides.

For more information or interviews please contact:

Goska Bonnaveira, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 276 01 85, e-mail

Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 76 505 33 78, e-mail

Notes to editors


This update of birds for the IUCN Red List reflects the second of a two-part comprehensive taxonomic review of birds; this update focussed on passerine birds – 'perching birds' such as flycatchers, thrushes, crows and finches – and has led to the recognition of 742 new species, many of which were previously treated as subspecies of other species. The new total of 6,649 passerines implies that avian diversity at the species level was previously underestimated by more than 10%. BirdLife now applies a single, consistent taxonomic approach worldwide, across all species. As a result, the number of recognised species rises above 11,000 for the first time to 11,121. Thirteen out of the 742 newly recognised species are already extinct – all were island endemics – and likely driven extinct by invasive species (on Hawai'i, Pacific islands, Indian Ocean islands, Galápagos and Bermuda).

First non-English language assessments published

The first non-English language assessments have been published on the IUCN Red List. Assessments for 20 species from the State of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil have been included, with the text in Portuguese. They were provided by CNCFlora (who also serve as the IUCN SSC Brazil Plant Red List Authority). These species are mostly localised endemics from the Mata Atlântica forest which has been substantially reduced by urban and agricultural expansion.

Supporting quotes

“Whilst giraffe are commonly seen on safari, in the media and in zoos, people – including conservationists – are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction. With a decline of almost 40% in the last three decades alone, the world's tallest animal is under severe pressure in some of its core ranges across East, Central and West Africa. As one of the world's most iconic animals, it is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late,” says Julian Fennessy, co-chair of the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group.

“Despite continuing conservation efforts to protect the immense diversity of life in Lake Victoria from growing threats, we are still seeing alarming declines in species populations, as this Red List update shows. Systematic monitoring at the species level has been lacking so far, and we urgently need to invest in monitoring and more conservation action to protect these species, many of which are critical to the livelihoods of people living around the lake,” says Dr William Darwall, Head of IUCN Freshwater Biodiversity Unit.

Quotes from Red List partners

"The addition of new species to the IUCN Red List, some of them already threatened with extinction, emphasises the urgency to produce conservation assessments to better prioritise species in need of conservation action as soon as the species are discovered. The first assessments of many crop wild relatives also highlight the need for conservation action, both in situ and ex situ, to ensure our future food security." - Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BCGI)

“It is certainly a concern that iconic species like the loquacious African grey parrot (Endangered) and the giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis (Vulnerable) are now listed as Threatened,” states Dr. Thomas Lacher, Jr. from Texas A&M University. “In addition, four wild relatives of the common mango are now Endangered and an additional wild relative Extinct in the Wild. The loss of genetic diversity in the wild relatives of many of our domestic food crops only erodes future options for new crop resources under changing climates.”

The Zoological Society of  London (ZSL) supports the management and monitoring of key sites for giraffe in the wild, including the Tsavo Conservation Area in Kenya via the SMART patrol management system, and has also supported the development of Kenya’s first National Giraffe Conservation Strategy. Both ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are home to giraffes, and ZSL co-hosts the IUCN SSC Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.  Co-chair of the Specialist Group, ZSL’s Dr Noëlle Kümpel warns, “Most people have no idea that both species of giraffid, the giraffe and its lesser-known Congolese rainforest cousin the okapi, are suffering dramatic declines and are now both threatened with extinction.  IUCN recently passed a key resolution calling for greater awareness and efforts to secure the future of these hugely charismatic, iconic and gentle species in the wild, including safeguarding key protected areas.”

"Several newly recognized bird species have made it to the Red List as Extinct, suggesting that extinction rates for other taxa are likely higher than we think. Yet there are bright spots - many rare and vulnerable birds have shown signs of recovery, providing good evidence that it is not too late to recover extant populations that are balancing on the brink of extinction," says Leah Gerber, Director, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Arizona State University.  

"It is critical as a global community that we continue to identify, prioritize, and conserve biodiversity, and the diversity of crop wild relatives, as we experience more and more climate driven impacts. These species can help crops and communities become more resilient and adapt to new conditions created by climate change," says Daniela Raik, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Moore Center for Science.



More than half of the sharks, rays and chimaeras native to the Mediterranean Sea are at risk of extinction

04 December 2016
Juvenile Angelfish. Photo: Tom Young.

The 2016 regional assessment of the Mediterranean Sea, which includes 73 species of sharks, rays and chimaeras, calls for urgent action to conserve their populations and habitats.

Despite the measures adopted at regional level to reduce shark overexploitation in the last ten years, at least 53% of the sharks, rays and chimaeras native to the Mediterranean Sea are still at risk of extinction, and urgent action to conserve their populations and habitats is required, according to the new Red List of sharks, rays and chimaeras in the Mediterranean Sea.

Blue Shark. Photo: Michael BearThe IUCN 2016 regional assessment updated the one released 10 years ago with information on 73 species. This regional assessment reveals that at least half of the rays (50%, 16 of 32 species) and 56% of sharks (23 of 41) face an elevated risk of extinction, whereas the only chimaera species (Chimaera monstrosa) is considered Least Concern in the Mediterranean Sea.

Besides, over the past half-century 13 species have become locally extinct in various places. Geographically, local extinctions have been most prevalent in the North West Mediterranean waters of Spain, France, and Italy, and in the waters of the countries bordering the Adriatic Sea and northwest African countries.This alarming decreasing number of species, most noticed in the north-western part of the Mediterranean, is linked to a more intensive fishing activity, and more specifically to bycatch.

Governments need to support catch monitoring and data collection, regulate gears and establish fishing quotas and protected areas at domestic level. Consumers on the other hand need to be aware of the risk of what buying these products entails” says Dr. Nick Dulvy, Co-chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and researcher at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

Squatina squatina (Angel Shark). Photo: Tony Gilbert.Angel sharks are among the most threatened families of the chondrichthyans (Squatinidae), along with sawfishes (Pristidae) and guitarfishes (Rhinobatidae).

This assessment has been developed in collaboration with scientists from the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, the IUCN Global Species Programme and experts from across the Mediterranean region. It summarizes the information available on Chondrichthyans found in the Mediterranean Sea with the aim of promoting conservation actions for these threatened fish species.

This 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.

Rhinobatos rhinobatos (guitarfish). Photo: Johan Fredriksson. The 2016 regional assessment of the Mediterranean Sea includes 73 species of sharks, rays and chimaeras. At least 53% of the sharks, rays and chimaeras native to the Mediterranean Sea are still at risk of extinction, and urgent action to conserve their populations and habitats is required, according to the new Red List of sharks, rays and chimaeras in the Mediterranean Sea.

The publication is available at the following link: Brochure - Red List of sharks, rays and chimaeras in the Mediterranean Sea.



Brazil to restore 12 million hectares of forests under Bonn Challenge for biodiversity and climate benefits

03 December 2016
Brazil’s overall commitment to restoration totals 22 million hectares. Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT).

Today, the government of Brazil committed to restoring 12 million hectares of deforested land under the Bonn Challenge, joining 38 other countries, associations and companies in the global restoration effort. The announcement was made by Brazil’s Minister of the Environment José Sarney Filho at the Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Cancun, Mexico, where the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is highlighting the role of forest landscape restoration (FLR) in achieving international biodiversity targets.

Brazil’s announcement brings the total pledged under the Bonn Challenge to over 136 million hectares, edging closer to achieving the Bonn Challenge goals of bringing 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Brazil’s Environment Minister José Sarney Filho announced the Bonn Challenge pledge. Photo: © IUCN“The Government of Brazil has the pleasure to announce its voluntary contribution to the Bonn Challenge and the 20x20 Initiative. We will reforest, restore forests and promote the regeneration of 12 million hectares of forested areas by 2030. This is a challenge that we face with determination and effort, and we are certain that our efforts will bring effective results in order for us to achieve our international goals,” says Minister Sarney Filho.

The Brazilian government also plans to implement integrated crop, livestock and forestry initiatives on an additional 5 million hectares under the country’s low-carbon initiatives and restore 5 million hectares of pastureland. Along with the 12 million hectares under the Bonn Challenge, these pledges will be counted as part of the 20x20 Initiative, a regional platform to drive action on the Bonn Challenge led by the World Resources Institute (WRI). Combined, Brazil’s overall commitment to restoration totals 22 million hectares. 

Brazil’s pledge was brought about through collaboration between the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, with concerted effort to build agreement on their restoration goals. This joint effort firmly establishes forest landscape restoration as a strategy being implemented across diverse landscapes and across sectors – and highlights Brazil’s global leadership on restoration.

“Brazil’s pledge to contribute 12 million hectares to the Bonn Challenge is a monumental step towards achieving this crucial goal. This restoration of degraded forest and agricultural lands is a perfect example of inter-sectoral collaboration that will surely inspire others,” says Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN.

Restoring forest landscapes at this scale will benefit local communities who depend directly on these ecosystems for food and income while advancing global efforts to mitigate climate change and conserve biodiversity. Studies by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) have identified net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products valued at US$ 170 billion per year if the 350 million hectare goal is reached.

IUCN Director Genral Inger Andersen at the CBD COP13 in Cancun, Mexico. Photo: © IUCN. At COP13, IUCN also drew attention to the contribution of FLR to achieving several Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Inger Andersen stresses the crucial role of the Bonn Challenge as an implementation vehicle for existing international commitments, saying: “With more countries building synergies between global restoration commitments and initiatives, we can capture these win-win opportunities: wins for biodiversity, wins for carbon, wins for people, wins for the economy, wins for women, and wins for our planet.”

For more on restoration efforts in Brazil, visit – IUCN’s information site on the global FLR movement. 

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Sandra Caya, Manager, Knowledge & Communications, IUCN Global Forest & Climate Change Programme, Mobile: +41 79 832 75 93,

Goska Bonnaveira, IUCN Communications Officer,  Mobile: +41 79 276 0185,



Over 200 species found during Deep-Sea surveys of submarine canyons in Lebanon

28 November 2016
Photo: © OCEANA

After a one month deep sea expedition in unexplored areas of the Mediterranean, scientists have found over 200 species,  including new records that have only been previously reported in the Atlantic Ocean and in polar regions.

This project was initiated following a request by the Ministry of Environment, in line with its Marine Protected Areas strategy. This project relies on scientific data flow modelling collected, compiled and analyzed by Oceana, IUCN and UNEP/MAP-RAC/SPA, on behalf of the Ministry of Environment with the support of CNRS-L, GFCM and ACCOBAMS, and funded by the MAVA Foundation.

Photo: © OCEANA Enrique TalledoThis expedition used an underwater robot operated remotely that surveyed areas down to 1050 metres depth. These robots focused on a system of submarine canyons that is believed to be the most complex one in the Mediterranean, as well as in other deep-sea areas. Unique marine features have been found in Lebanon, which include, a superb belt of coralligenous gardens, beautiful corals, and a huge variety of sponges. Some fish species came as a surprise as well, longnosed skate (Dipturus oxyrinchus) was seen for the first time in the Levantine Sea, and observations of lantern shark (Etmopterus pusillus) marked the first record of this species in the Mediterranean. These preliminary findings have just been shared with Lebanese authorities.

The findings following this survey will be used to map potential marine protected area (MPA) status and to provide guidance to the Lebanese government for managing these valuable and unique ecosystems deserving protection.

“Lebanon is setting an excellent example for marine conservation in the south-eastern Mediterranean, with its commitment to studying and protecting its deep-sea marine life. By working together, the Lebanese government, local scientists, and international organisations have made a tremendous advance towards the protection of this vulnerable environment. We ask other countries to follow their lead,” said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.

About the Project:

Photo: © OCEANAThe Deep Sea Lebanon Project, launched in 2016, was undertaken following a request for partnership sent from the Lebanese Ministry of Environment in order to carry out biodiversity field surveys in the deep sea in Lebanon, following the adoption by the Lebanese Government of the Lebanon’s Marine Protected Areas Strategy in 2012, in which four sites in the deep sea were identified as potential MPAs and needed further scientific studies for their declaration.

The Lebanese Strategy aimed to create a national network of marine protected areas, in order to fulfill Lebanon’s commitments towards the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and to specifically contribute to the achievement of the CBD Aichi marine target, aiming at the protection of at least of 10% of marine eco-regions in the world by 2020.

For more information:

Oceana: Marta Madina 

IUCN: Zyad Samaha or Alain Jeudy



Biodiversity assessment reports on pollination and on scenarios and modelling launched

25 November 2016
The extent of the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinator species is highlighted by the IPBES report. Photo: © DasWebWeib CC BY 2.0

The extent of the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinator species was highlighted by a report published in full yesterday by the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). More than 75% of the world’s food crops rely to some degree on animal pollination, according to the report. The report draws substantially from IUCN work and expertise.

“We’re delighted with how effectively the IPBES pollination report was able to draw from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ to document the high extinction risk facing the world’s pollinators. This report also brings to light the urgency of undertaking Red List assessments for other invertebrate species groups elsewhere in the world,” says Ana Nieto, lead author of the IUCN European Red List of Bees.

Status of wild pollinators on the Red List of Threatened Species around the world. Photo: © IUCNThe report was also met with some scepticism, however. “I would question whether any practical on-the-ground action to help pollinators will happen as a result of this document. The evidence that pesticides harm pollinators is described as ‘conflicting’ in this report, which misrepresents the overwhelming weight of evidence showing that some pesticides are harmful. Moreover, given on-going declines in many pollinators, the precautionary principle should be applied, and the report fails to recommend this,” Dr Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, and member of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides of IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management and Species Survival Commission.

The addition of recommendations that pesticide risk assessment should apply the precautionary principle (in other words, require proof of safety) will therefore be important for other institutions, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will consider the pollination assessment at its thirteenth Conference of the Parties, this December.

The report, titled “Fast-track thematic assessment of pollinators, pollination and food production,” also emphasises the role played by indigenous peoples and local communities in conserving pollinator populations.

Status of wild pollinators on the Red List of Threatened Species around the world. Photo: © IUCN“Indigenous practices which support pollination include maintaining diversified farming systems and heterogeneity of pollinator habitat in landscapes and gardens,” says Dr Rosemary Hill, Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO in Australia, member of IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy and World Commission on Protected Areas, and one of the report’s coordinating lead authors. “Numerous indigenous pollinator totems and sacred texts about pollinators in most religions highlight their broad significance to human societies over millennia.”

A second IPBES report, a “Methodological assessment of scenarios and modelling,” also published in full today, outlines how models and scenarios can best be used to assess the state of nature and the benefits it provides to people, and how these may change into the future. For example, models can forecast how deforestation caused by the increasing demand for palm oil might affect species and ecosystems. Many of these techniques are very familiar to the conservation community. For example, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is underpinned by quantitative models of the risk of species extinction.

Some of the techniques discussed in the assessment, however, are less well-known in current conservation policy and practice. For instance, ‘target-seeking scenarios,’ start with societally-agreed goals and then run models run backwards to shed light on the combinations of policy decisions necessary to achieve particular targets. “These approaches stand to be very valuable in supporting the simultaneous achievement of environmental, social and economic targets agreed under the new UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Dr Carlo Rondinini, Research Scientist at Sapienza University of Rome, Coordinator of the Global Mammal Assessment for the IUCN Red List, and a coordinating lead author of the report.

The report also summarises how scenarios can be used to retrospectively determine to what degree conservation actions can be credited with improvements in the field.

“IUCN’s application of such approaches has shown that in the absence of conservation action, the rate at which ungulate species would have slid towards extinction would have been seven times faster,” explains Dr Resit Akçakaya, Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University and Chair of the Standards and Petitions Sub-Committee of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, another of the report’s coordinating lead authors. IUCN is working towards development of a system that will standardise both retrospective and prospective scenario analyses in terms of the extinction risk and recovery status of species.

The scenarios and modelling report is available here and the pollination report here.

The French Ministry of Ecology and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation supported IUCN’s engagement with IPBES over the last four years.



Dolphins fostering Thailand-Cambodia cooperation for Marine Protected Areas

16 November 2016
Irrawaddy dolphins in Thai-Cambodian transboundary water. Photo: © Petch Manopawitr.

Results of an 18-month transboundary dolphin conservation project along the coastline of Thailand and Cambodia have confirmed that the transboundary coastal areas along the Thai-Cambodian border are particularly important habitats for the globally threatened Irrawaddy dolphin, and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. The project has made significant progress in using dolphins as ambassadors to promote the concept of transboundary Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) management.

Indo-pacific Humpback dolphin mother and calf. Photo: © Chatchai PakpienBased on surveys conducted from 2008 to 2014, the population of Irrawaddy dolphins in Trat, Thailandand Koh Kong, Cambodia is estimated at 500. This makes the Cambodia/Thailand transborder population of Irrawaddy dolphins the second largest in the world. “Unfortunately, these dolphins are in trouble. Many die when they get entangled in fishing gear, particularly gillnets.,” said Brian Smith, Asia Coordinator, IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group and project technical adviser. 

The project also revealed that there is a strong potential for integrating dolphin watching into ecotourism programmes in Trat and Koh Kong. Well-managed ecotourism offers an opportunity to strengthen dolphin research and conservation as well as improve the livelihoods of local fishermen whose activities may be affected by the establishment of dolphin management zones. 

Dolphin rescue demonstration for school children in Trat Province. Photo: © Rawiwan Booncha The project also developed best practices for dolphin watching activities and conducted trainings for boat drivers and tour operators.

Additionally, through the use of audio-visual communications tools like videos and posters, awareness was raised on both sides of the border through community meetings and outreach activities. Communication materials were produced and disseminated to communities, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and international organisations in both countries. As a result, local dolphin conservation networks were strengthened. 

To facilitate improved cooperation between both countries, a transboundary Marine Mammal Management Committee and a technical working group was established in Koh KongUnder the new Marine and Coastal Resources Management Act (2015), a working group within the newly formed Provincial Committee was also established in Trat Province, Thailand. 

Photo ID survey on 12Nov2015 in Koh Kong, Cambodia. Photo: © Sonim Veth“Effective dolphin conservation initiatives in the Trat – Koh Kong area will require sustained collaborative efforts. Marine Spatial Planning and transboudary MPAs offer tools for all stakeholders to work together systematically and collectively over the next few years,” said Petch Manopawitr, Deputy of IUCN Indo-Burma Group and Project Manager.





Climate change dramatically disrupting nature from genes to ecosystems – study

10 November 2016
Kelp Forest. Photo: NOAA (CC BY 2.0).

Gland, Switzerland, 10 November, 2016 (IUCN) – Global changes in temperature have already impacted every aspect of life on Earth from genes to entire ecosystems, with increasingly worrying consequences for humans – according to a new study co-authored by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Climate Change Specialist Group (SSC CCSG), published today in the journal Science.

The study found that more than 80% of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems – such as changes to genetic diversity or seasonal migration – are already showing signs of distress and altering as a response to climate change.

“The extent to which climate change is already wreaking havoc with nature is simply astounding,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “These findings send a very clear message to world leaders gathering for climate change negotiations in Marrakech: cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the ecosystems on which we depend is an urgent matter of self-preservation.”

The study analyses 94 ecological processes, as documented in peer-reviewed literature.

Many of the climate change impacts on species and ecosystems affect people, according to the authors, with consequences ranging from increased pest and disease outbreaks, reduced productivity in fisheries, and decreasing agricultural yields. Changes in ecological processes may also compromise the capacity of ecosystems to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change, the authors warn. Healthy ecosystems contribute to climate mitigation and adaption by sequestering substantial amounts of carbon, regulating local climate and reducing risks from climate-related hazards such as floods, sea-level rise and cyclones, the report states.

“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1oC of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt,” says study lead author Dr Brett Scheffers, member of the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group and assistant professor at the University of Florida. “These range from individual genes changing, significant shifts in species’ physiology and physical features such as body size, and species moving to entirely new areas.”

When a large number of processes are all impacted within a single ecosystem, they scale up to produce what researchers call ecological regime shifts – where one ecosystem state shifts to an alternative state. This can be seen in kelp forests that have turned into rocky barrens in temperate seas. On land and in the oceans, many ecosystems are becoming unrecognisable, with Arctic tundra ecosystems becoming dominated by boreal and temperate organisms, and temperate marine ecosystems becoming dominated by tropical organisms.

However, the study also points to hope as many of nature’s responses to climate change could be used to inform human adaptive measures. For example, improved understanding of the adaptive capacity in wildlife can be applied to our crops, livestock and fisheries. This can be seen in crops such as wheat and barley, where domesticated varieties are crossed with wild varieties to maintain the evolutionary potential of crops under climate change.

“This study has strong implications for global climate change agreements,” says co-author Dr Wendy Foden, Chair of the IUCN SSC Climate Change Specialist Group, based at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. “Countries’ current commitments reduce global temperature rise to around 3oC, but we’re showing that there are already serious impacts right across biological systems at 1oC. If we’re going to keep natural systems delivering the services we rely so heavily on, it’s imperative that we step up our efforts.”

“We are simply astonished at the level of change we observed, which many of us in the scientific community were not expecting for decades,” says senior author Dr James Watson from the University of Queensland and World Conservation Society, member of the IUCN Climate Change Specialist Group. “It is no longer sensible to consider this a concern for the future and if we don’t act quickly to curb emissions it is likely that every ecosystem across Earth will fundamentally change in our lifetimes.”

The full report, "The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people" is available here.



Living Planet Report predicts global vertebrate population to drop by two-thirds by 2020

08 November 2016
Living Planet Report 2016. Photo: WWF

The latest Living Planet Report 2016, published by WWF in collaboration with Global Footprint Network and Zoological Society of London, shows that the overexploitation of natural resources due to human activities could cause wildlife worldwide to decline by 67% by 2020.

The report monitored over 3,000 vertebrate species (mammals, birds, fishes, amphibians, reptiles) from more than 14,000 different populations from around the world and found that 58% have already declined between 1970 and 2012. The data shows that this decline is occurring at an annual rate of 2%, with no indication of this rate slowing down.

According to the report, the most common threat to declining populations is habitat loss and degradation along with overexploitation being another top threat. Humanity continues to demand more from the natural resources our planet can sustainably offer. The report estimates that by 2012, 1.6 Earths were needed to provide the goods and services demanded by humans that year. If no changes are made, it is projected that the Earth's ecosystems will exceed their regenerative capacity by 75% by 2020. As highlighted in the report, to address these social inequalities and environmental degradation, a deeper understanding of our natural systems is required and a need to shift toward living within Planetary Boundaries.

The Living Planet Report emphasises the need to accelerate our transition to a sustainable society, particularly if we are to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments made under the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The report brings to the forefront the importance of increasing a shared understanding of the links between humanity and nature to ensure a more sustainable future.

"This important report, amplifies the IUCN Red List findings and once again raises the alarm of the biodiversity crisis which is too often overlooked by the climate change challenge. It may be time for a Paris Agreement on Biodiversity loss to tackle this crisis,” said Luc Bas, Director, IUCN European Regional Office.

Read the summary Living Planet Report 2016 here.

Read the full report here.



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