Protecting the future

03 March 2020

Today is World Wildlife Day. It celebrates and raises awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The day was inaugurated on 20th December 2013 at the United Nations General Assembly.

Muriel Cozier

3 March 2020

The theme for World Wildlife Day 2020 is ‘Sustaining all life on Earth,’ which is particularly appropriate in the wake of the devastation caused by the fires that took hold across Australia from November 2019 through to early 2020. The fires are said to be the worst in Australia’s recorded history.

In an assessment on the impact of the fires, the UN released a statement at the end of January listing the effects under ten headings, one of them being ‘Ongoing ecological and biodiversity impacts.’ In the statement the UN said ‘An estimated billion animals, and many more bats and insect, are likely to die in total over the coming weeks and months as a result of the lost habitat and food sources. This loss is part of a much bigger picture of a world where biodiversity is in steep decline. We are losing wildlife on an ever-increasing scale across the planet, with impact on ecosystems vital for out own global food production.’ With a warning about the future, the UN statement added ‘With over one million species currently facing extinction if we continue with business as usual, extreme weather events such as ‘megafires’ become an increasing matter of concern for species survival.’

However, sounding a positive note about the future of biodiversity a study from Tuft’s University, US concludes that federally protected lands reduce habitat loss and defends endangered species.

Using more than 30 years of earth satellite images, researchers have found that habitat loss for imperilled species in the US, over this period, was more than twice as great on non-protected private land than on federally protected land.

Publishing the findings in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, researchers said that the study provided evidence that federal land protection and listing under US Endangered Species Act are effective tools for stemming losses in species habitat.

Jacob Malcolm director of the Centre for Conservation Innovation at Defenders of Wildlife and co-author of the study said ‘This research illustrates the critical importance of America’s federal lands system for conserving wildlife habitat and the urgent need for better protections on other land ownerships. Biodiversity and the service it provides to society can be conserved through concerted effort and transformative change; protecting habitats must be an essential part of that effort.

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment DOI:/10.1002/fee.2177

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