Will we see unity over biodiversity?

Updated: 2010-11-06 07:05

By OP Rana (China Daily)

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Asia's economy is the fastest growing in the world. It has led (and is still leading) the world economic recovery. These are undeniable facts.

Asia, especially Southeast Asia, is losing its forests at the fastest rate. The loss of forests is also a loss of biodiversity. These are undeniable facts, too.

Scientists who compiled the (new) Red List of Threatened Species recently say one-fifth of animal and plant species are under the threat of extinction, and the proportion of species facing wipeout is rising. Their report was released during the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, held in Nagoya, Japan, from Oct 18 to 29.

The scientists' report says 41 percent of the amphibian species are at risk, making them the most threatened category of animals. And they are threatened because of loss of habitat.

But why should humans be bothered about the extinction of frogs, toads, salamanders and newts?

The answer is simple: because their existence is related to the existence of other species. The loss of one species will lead to the loss of another, which in turn lead to the loss of a third and even fourth and fifth, setting a chain reaction till all the species (ultimately including humans) are wiped out.

There is some good news, though. Intensive conservation work has pulled some species back from the edge of extinction. Among them are three species bred in captivity and returned to the wild: the California condor and black-footed ferret in the United States, and Przewalski's horse in Mongolia. And the ban on commercial whaling has increased the number of humpback whales to such an extent that they are now off the Red List.

Though scientists agree that a complete halt to the loss of biodiversity is not feasible in the world we live in today, they appeal to the world to save 587 sites across the world that are home to 920 species on the brink of extinction. The scientists, under the umbrella of the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), have said that if the 587 sites are protected, the world could avert an imminent global extinction crisis.

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