Three quarters of the world’s threatened species are imperiled from agriculture, land conversion, overharvesting

 James Allen

James Allen

August 10th, 2016

The team, from the University of Queensland, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), studied information on 8,688 species on the IUCN Red List. They found that 72 percent of species are imperiled by overexploitation (the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth), while 62 percent of species are imperiled by agricultural activity (the production of food, fodder, fiber and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees). In comparison, 19 percent are considered threatened by climate change.

There are 5,407 species threatened by agriculture alone, including cheetah, African wild dog and Asia’s hairy-nosed otter. Illegal hunting is decimating populations of all rhinoceros and elephant species, western gorilla and Chinese pangolin. Other threats are affecting substantially fewer species, for example hooded seals being threatened by climate change. Perhaps surprisingly, climate change was ranked 7th among the 11 threats studied.

“Addressing these old foes of overharvesting and agricultural activities are key to turning around the biodiversity extinction crisis” said lead author Sean Maxwell of the University of Queensland. “This must be at the forefront of the conservation agenda.”

From September 1-10, representatives from government, industry, and non-environmental organizations (NGOs) will define future directions for conservation at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The report authors urge congress delegates – and society in general – to focus on proposing and funding actions that deal with the biggest current threats to biodiversity.

Read more at IUCN.