The world is currently experiencing its sixth mass extinction event. Species are disappearing at an estimated 1000x the expected normal rate of extinction (roughly 5 species per year). Conservation efforts around the world are trying to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, but they are hindered by the lack of hard evidence linking conservation spending to biodiversity improvements.
A team led by University of Oxford researchers has created a way to assess changes in biodiversity. Using the IUCN (Internal Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List status for birds and mammals from 1996-2008, the researchers calculated a ‘BDS’ or ‘biodiversity decline score’ for each country that contained each of the species. The team then generated a model to predict biodiversity decline from known scores. Among the plethora of results, they found that conservation spending was positively correlated with a decrease in BDS and negatively with agricultural and GDP growth. Additionally, the group modeled that without the increased conservation spending due to the UN Earth Summit in 1992, countries would have experienced roughly 29% more biodiversity loss than in the status quo. Though spending levels before 1990 are not well documented, this estimate represents the average across a range of realistic but extrapolated spending levels.
While the results of this model are not surprising, the BDS system should prove to be a strong tool going forward. The model accounts for which species are native to a specific country. The total percentage of a species in a given country is then used to define that country’s responsibility for that species. The model can help determine how much funding should be allocated to each species in order to optimize impact.
Managing Correspondent: Zane Wolf
Image Credit: Dave Matthews
Related SITN Articles: Signal to Noise Special Edition: United Nations Decade on Biodviersity ; The Importance of being Biodiverse
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