However, research carried out recently by José Luis Martín Esquivel has highlighted some conflicting areas within the scientific protocol designed to identify threatened plants and animals.
José Luis Martín Esquivel, a researcher at the Centre for Environmental Planning (CEPLAM) run by the Government of the Canary Islands, has assessed the conservation status of species that are supposed to be under threat in the Canary Islands according to IUCN criteria. However, the lists of species threatened with extinction according to these criteria did not coincide with reality, as they were "too extensive" and included species that "do not face any risk at all".
After analysing the basis for the Red List criteria, Martín Esquivel discovered that "almost all relate to vertebrates (above all birds) and plants, and they are all based on continental species, not island ones", the author of the study published in the Journal for Nature Conservation tells SINC.
Given the difference between continental and island ecosystems, the scientist says there is a "clear discrepancy". Species on islands are distributed according to the size of the island itself, "and are often found at lower concentrations than similar continental species, without this meaning they should be thought to be threatened", adds Martín Esquivel.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), any species with a distribution area of less than 2,000 km2 should be considered to be threatened. This would mean the 3,672 species endemic to the Canary Islands (38 vertebrates, 510 plants, 2,960 arthropods or invertebrates and 196 molluscs) should be labelled as threatened, because only the largest island of the Canaries, Tenerife, covers an area of around 2,000 km2.
The scientists believes that "many of the more than 4,000 endemic species on the Canary Islands are in a very healthy condition, and are not at any risk whatsoever", although he adds that specific conservation measures are needed as a matter of urgency in order to conserve the unique biodiversity of small islands. In comparison with continents and large islands, small islands operate on a different ecological basis.
Another inconsistency noted in the study is that insects, the most naturally abundant group (accounting for 90% of the almost 4,000 endemic species in the Canary Islands), are not covered by Red List criteria for threatened species. As invertebrates usually have a smaller distribution area than large vertebrates and birds "the same baseline criteria cannot be used for birds and snails, for example", explains the biologist.
"More than 2,000 species, most of which are in a good state of conservation, are island species endemic to the Canary Islands, living in protected areas without any significant threats, and so one cannot conclude that they are at risk", stresses Martín Esquivel, who compares the problem to that in other islands, such as the Galapagos, or larger islands such as New Zealand.
Are small island species in decline?
According to the biologist, the best way to identify whether species on small islands are threatened would be to "stop using the qualitative thresholds system" established by the IUCN, and "find out whether the species is in regression", because a threatened species is one that is losing ground in terms of the area it occupies, or the number of its individuals. Martín Esquivel says "the most important thing is whether the species' home range is decreasing, stable, or expanding".
The researcher suggests rigorously identifying those species that are really threatened. Protecting species means ensuring that "the few resources available for protecting priority species are spent on those really in most urgent need of conservation". "Expending efforts on species that are not threatened simply because they are iconic or because powerful pressure groups are fighting for them does not help efforts to prevent biodiversity loss", the biologist concludes.
Martín, José L. "Are the IUCN standard home-range thresholds for species a good indicator to prioritise conservation urgency in small islands? A case study in the Canary Islands (Spain)" Journal for Nature Conservation 17(2): 87-98 2009.
SINC | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences