Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New tools help protect world's threatened species

Date:
May 29, 2014
Source:
University of Georgia
Summary:
New tools to collect and share information could help stem the loss of the world's threatened species, according to a paper. The study -- by an international team of scientists -- reviewed recent studies in conservation science, looking at rates of species extinction, distribution and protection to determine where there were crucial gaps in knowledge, where threats to species are expanding and how best to tailor protection efforts to be successful.

New tools to collect and share information could help stem the loss of the world's threatened species, according to a paper published today in the journal Science. The study -- by an international team of scientists that included John L. Gittleman, dean of the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology -- was led by Stuart L. Pimm of Duke University and Clinton N. Jenkins of the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecolσgicas in Brazil.

Related Articles


"As databases coalesce and policymakers have access to greater information, we see real and improving successes for conservation science," Gittleman said.

The paper's authors reviewed recent studies in conservation science, looking at rates of species extinction, distribution and protection to determine where there were crucial gaps in knowledge, where threats to species are expanding and how best to tailor protection efforts to be successful.

By combining studies of the fossil record and of molecular analyses, they found the current rate of extinction -- driven primarily by human activity -- was roughly 1,000 times higher than the natural, background extinction rate -- an alarming number that is likely to grow, they said.

"Online databases, smart phone apps, crowd sourcing and new hardware are making it easier to collect data on species," Pimm said. "When combined with data on land-use change and the species observations of millions of amateur citizen scientists, they are increasingly allowing closer monitoring of the planet's biodiversity and threats to it.

"For our success to continue, however, we need to support the expansion of these technologies and develop even more powerful technologies for the future."

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, a global database that assesses the threat status of the world's known plant and animal species, is one of the chief sources of biodiversity information. It covers approximately 71,000 species today, but with greater investment could expand to its target of 160,000 species.

Projects that allow the general public to collaborate with scientists are becoming useful sources of knowledge on a large scale. Online databases such as iNaturalist.org and DiscoverLife.org -- based at UGA -- rely on amateur observers to contribute photographs for identification by scientists, providing valuable information about species distributions.

"One of the most exciting opportunities made possible by new technology is that we can combine existing databases such as the Red List with constantly updated maps of where species live, maps of areas that are protected, maps of land-use change, human impacts and threat and the species observations of amateurs," Pimm said. "Rather than rely on local snapshots of biodiversity, we can fashion a detailed global perspective of Earth's biodiversity, the threats to it and how to manage them."

One factor playing a role in extinction is the way species are distributed across the globe.

Species with naturally small geographic ranges are more common than those with large ranges, but they are also more vulnerable to threats such as loss of habitat. Many small-ranged species also tend to cluster together in the same areas. Those areas not only harbor the highest numbers of species, they also happen to suffer very high rates of habitat destruction-a sort of double-whammy that puts many species at risk for extinction.

But the fact that many vulnerable species are located together also offers an efficient way to target scarce conservation resources.

"This knowledge offers the hope that we can concentrate our conservation efforts on critical places around the planet," Pimm said.

New tools for mapping and data collection, analysis and sharing are helping scientists determine where those critical places are. However, major conservation challenges remain.

There are still enormous gaps in knowledge about how many species there are, where they live and their risks of extinction. Only about 13 percent of the world's land area and roughly two percent of its ocean area are currently under any sort of legal protection. And for aquatic species, whose threats often come from activities taking place on land far from where they live, land use management may prove just as important as protecting their habitat.

"The gap between what we know and don't know about Earth's biodiversity is still tremendous, but technology is playing a major role in closing it and helping us conserve biodiversity more intelligently and efficiently," said coauthor Lucas N. Joppa, a conservation scientist at Microsoft's Computational Science Laboratory in Cambridge, U.K.

"The bottom line question is, are we doing better at protecting and saving threatened biodiversity?" Gittleman said. "The answer is a resounding 'yes,' and we can do even more by embracing the new opportunities advancing technologies provide."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Georgia. The original article was written by Beth Gavrilles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. L. Pimm, C. N. Jenkins, R. Abell, T. M. Brooks, J. L. Gittleman, L. N. Joppa, P. H. Raven, C. M. Roberts, J. O. Sexton. The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection. Science, 2014; 344 (6187): 1246752 DOI: 10.1126/science.1246752

Cite This Page:

University of Georgia. "New tools help protect world's threatened species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529182741.htm>.
University of Georgia. (2014, May 29). New tools help protect world's threatened species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529182741.htm
University of Georgia. "New tools help protect world's threatened species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529182741.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

How To: Mixed Green Salad Topped With Camembert Cheese

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) — Learn how to make a mixed green salad topped with a pan-seared camembert cheese in only a minute! Music: Courtesy of Audio Network. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Water Fleas Prepare for Space Voyage

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 26, 2015) — Scientists are preparing a group of water fleas for a unique voyage into space. The aquatic crustaceans, known as Daphnia, can be used as a miniature model for biomedical research, and their reproductive and swimming behaviour will be tested for signs of stress while on board the International Space Station. Jim Drury went to meet the team. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Husky Puppy Plays With Ferret

Rumble (Jan. 26, 2015) — It looks like this 2-month-old Husky puppy and the family ferret are going to be the best of friends. Look at how much fun they&apos;re having together! Credit to &apos;Vira&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Scientists Model Flying, Walking Drone After Vampire Bats

Buzz60 (Jan. 26, 2015) — Swiss scientists build a new drone that can both fly and walk, modeling it after the movements of common vampire bats. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


New Technologies Making It Easier to Protect Threatened Species

May 29, 2014 — Online databases, smart phone apps, crowd sourcing and new hardware devices are making it easier to collect data on species. When combined with data on land-use change and the species observations of ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins