Hundreds of species face extinction
Ahead of the recent United Nations Biodiversity Summit that was held in Egypt from Nov. 1729, a major assessment by the international Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) – the global conservation partnership that works to identify, map and safeguard sites holding the only known locations of highly threatened species – finds that nearly half of these irreplaceable sites are currently unprotected, but that with concerted action, hundreds of extinctions can be prevented.
The analysis mapped the ranges of 1,483 highly threatened species known only to occur in a single site. To qualify for AZE status, a site must be the last known location of an Endangered or Critically Endangered species – the two highest extinction threat categories on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Alongside its efforts in Chile, the AZE project team is also working in Brazil and Madagascar. Across all three countries, the project aims to improve the management of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, as well as working with key inancial institutions to integrate conservation of threatened species into their environmental safeguard policies
Launched globally in 2005, the AZE was established to designate and effectively conserve the most important sites for global biodiversity conservation. The AZE engages governments, multilateral institutions and non-governmental biodiversity conservation organisations working to prevent species extinctions. Just under 1,500 of Earth’s most endangered species are restricted to just a single site, making these sites globally irreplaceable from a biodiversity conservation viewpoint.
AZE members have identiied 853 AZE sites, which are the areas that hold the last-remaining populations of one or more species evaluated to be Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. These locations must be effectively conserved to prevent the loss of the world’s species at highest risk of extinction, through protected area planning or other effective conservation strategies.
AZE sites have one or more Critically Endangered or Endangered species that occurs nowhere else on Earth. If an AZE site is lost, such as through habitat degradation, these species are very likely to become extinct, at least in the wild. How can the extinction of such highly-threatened species be avoided?
1. Identify AZE sites: the first step to implementing AZE site conservation is to identify AZE sites.
2. Determine protected area coverage for AZE sites: the next step is to determine which AZE sites are currently protected. Both nationallevel protected areas datasets and global datasets, such as the World Database on Protected Areas, can be consulted to determine the extent to which AZE sites are in protected areas.
3. Safeguard sites for biodiversity conservation: the third step is to safeguard these extremely important sites for biodiversity conservation. Such conservation can be implemented in several ways, such as through the establishment of national or sub-national protected areas, private protected areas, or other effective area-based conservation measures in which long-term management measures exist.
AZE uses the following criteria to identify priority sites. An AZE site must meet all three criteria to qualify.
1. Endangerment: an AZE site must contain at least one Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR) species, as assessed on the IUCN Red List.
2. Irreplaceability: an AZE site should only be designated if it is the sole area where an EN or CR species occurs, contains the overwhelmingly signiicant known resident population (>95%) of the EN or CR species, or contains the overwhelmingly signiicant known population (>95%) for one life history segment (e.g. breeding or wintering) of the EN or CR species.
3. Discreteness: the area must have a deinable boundary within which the character of habitats, biological communities, and/or management issues have more in common with each other than they do with those in adjacent areas.
These criteria are the equivalent of Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) criterion A1e: Site regularly holds effectively the entire global population size of a Critically Endangered or Endangered species. Therefore, all AZE sites are also KBAs.
Governments met in Egypt to build momentum for a New Deal for Nature and People. The 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference held under the theme of ‘Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet’.
The conference addressed mainstreaming of biodiversity in crucial economic sectors, such as energy and mining, infrastructure, manufacturing and processing as well as health. Delegates recharged ambition to scale and accelerate efforts to make progress on the 20 global “Aichi Biodiversity Targets” by 2020. Participants also set the path to develop the post 2020 global biodiversity framework.
The conference took place at a critical moment for the fate of biodiversity worldwide. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Living Planet Report 2018 found that worldwide vertebrate populations are currently set to decline by 60 per cent from their 1970 levels by 2020. Scientiic reports from the Intergovernmental SciencePolicy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), released in March, also offers a detailed survey of the status and health of biodiversity region by region.
Signiicant action is needed to address continuing biodiversity loss and to achieve the three objectives of the Convention. Catalyzing action at the necessary scale requires integrating biodiversity in relevant economic sectors, as well as in cross-cutting national policies, development plans and processes, budgets, and economic projects. These kinds of actions are often referred to as “biodiversity mainstreaming.”