The ‘real’ rate of extinction

  • Scientists have suggested that extinction rates may have been over-exaggerated as a result of incorrect estimates of total biodiversity.
  • A recent study proposed that there may be less plant and animal biodiversity than predicted and this has led to skewed extinction rates. The study suggests that the true rate of loss is close to 1% per decade (some have proposed extinction rates of 5% per decade).
  • Previous estimates of global biodiversity are as high as 100 million species, but the recent research puts that figure at 5 million species (+/-3million) with 1.5 million of those being named.
  • There is a concern that reporting a potentially inaccurate, artificially high extinction rate will mean biodiversity conservation may seem hopeless. It is also acknowledged that drivers such as climate change, over-hunting and habitat loss may accelerate the rate of extinction in future.

Implications and next steps: investment and expertise in taxonomy may allow us to name a greater number of species at a faster rate, gaining a more accurate  picture of UK biodiversity, extinction rates and conservation priorities. This also has implications for achieving biodiversity goals such as the ‘halting biodiversity loss’ goal of the UK (biodiversity 2020) and the international Aichi Biodiversity Targets (Convention on Biological Diversity).

The Telegraph:; Science:; Defra:

About annaarathe

Research fellow, horizon scanning
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