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Fifty species move closer to extinction every year, report says

October 27, 2010 | 12:51 pm

Condor Agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation and invasive alien species are pushing an average of 50 species closer to extinction every year, according to a study published this week in the journal Science.

Unveiled as the conference on global biodiversity began in Nagoya, Japan, the multi-authored study of the planet's vertebrates says that conservation efforts have had notable successes that have helped mitigate the trend toward a less-diverse biosphere. Without conservation efforts, the biodiversity status of Earth would have decreased another 20%, according to the report.

Nonetheless, “the ‘backbone’ of biodiversity is being eroded,” said Professor E.O. Wilson of Harvard University. “One small step up the 'red list' is one giant leap forward toward extinction. This is just a small window on the global losses currently taking place.”

The study, which relied on data on 25,000 species in a so-called red list by the International Union for Conservation and Natural Resources, highlighted 64 species of mammal, bird and amphibian that have recovered due to conservation efforts. Among them were three species that have been reintroduced into the wild: the California condor, the black-footed ferret and Przewalski’s horse.

Southeast Asia suffered the worst rate of decline in biodiversity, largely due to land clearing for cultivation of export crops such as palm oil.

The report notes that 41% of amphibian species are threatened, as are 13% of bird species.

-- Geoff Mohan

Photo: A California condor protects its chick in a nest cave near Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service