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Rare species ‘could face extinction’

02 January 2015


Doomed: a female northern white rhino, one of the last of the species

Doomed: a female northern white rhino, one of the last of the species

A MASS extinction of thousands of the world's rarest species could happen within the next two centuries, mostly at the hands of Man, the scientific journal Nature suggested last month

But the publication admitted that an accurate judgement is extremely difficult as only four per cent of the Earth's 1.7 million known species have been adequately assessed.

In an editorial, Nature argues that it is now imperative for governments and groups such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature to begin an accurate census of species on the planet and their rates of extinction.

"It is vitally important if we want to start protecting life on Earth from the worst impacts of our actions," the magazine said. "The loss for the planet is incalculable - as it is for our own species, which could soon find itself living in a world denuded of all variety in nature. As ecologist Paul Ehrlich has put it: 'In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.'"

Nature has pulled together the most reliable available data from a variety of sources to provide a situation report of life on Earth: Biodiversity: Life - a status report.

It said: "Among the groups that can be assessed, amphibians stand out as the most imperilled: 41 per cent face the threat of extinction, in part because of devastating epidemics caused by chytrid fungi. More than a quarter (26 per cent) of mammal species and 13 per cent of birds face significant threats because of habitat loss and degradation, as well as activities such as hunting. . . Conservation policies could slow extinctions, but current trends do not give much comfort. Although nations are expanding the number of land and ocean areas that they set aside for protection, most measures of biodiversity show that pressures on species are increasing."

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