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Spineless creatures that rule the world


Spineless creatures that rule the world

Gland, Switzerland, 31 August 2012 (IUCN) – One-fifth of the world’s invertebrates may be threatened with extinction according to ‘Spineless,’ a report published today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), in conjunction with IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

Digging up earthworms, chasing butterflies and collecting clam shells could become a thing of the past if enough isn’t done to protect invertebrates. And if they disappear, humans could soon follow. These critters form the basis of many of the essential benefits that nature provides: earthworms recycle waste nutrients, coral reefs support a myriad of life forms and bees help pollinate crops.


“The IUCN Species Survival Commission is currently trying to expand the number of invertebrates species assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission. “The early results of this work are included in the Spineless book. I very much hope that the expansion of conservation-related information on invertebrates will give these species a much higher conservation profile in future.”

More than 12,000 invertebrates from The IUCN Red List were reviewed by conservation scientists—who also discovered freshwater species to be under the highest risk of extinction, followed closely by terrestrial and marine invertebrates. The findings from this initial group of global, regional and national assessments provide important insight into the overall status of invertebrates. Together they indicate that the threat status of invertebrates is likely very similar to that of vertebrates and plants.

Invertebrates are at risk from a variety of threats and what starts off as a local decline could lead to a global extinction. Recognizing the growing pressures on invertebrates is critical to informing more effective conservation. Molluscs, such as the Thick Shelled River Mussels (Unio crassus), suffer from pollution from agricultural sources and dam construction, which affects the quality of the water they live in. Crayfish such as the Noble Crayfish (Astacus astacus), are at risk from the impact of invasive species and diseases.

“Invertebrates constitute almost 80 percent of the world’s species, and a staggering one in five species could be at risk of extinction,” says Dr Ben Collen, Head of the Indicators and Assessments unit at ZSL. “While the cost of saving them will be expensive, the cost of ignorance to their plight appears to be even greater.”

The highest risk of extinction tends to be associated with species that are less mobile and are only found in small geographical areas. For example, vertebrate amphibians and invertebrate freshwater molluscs both face high levels of threat– around one-third of species are at risk. In contrast, invertebrate species which are more mobile, like dragonflies and butterflies, face a similar threat to that of birds, and around one-tenth of species are at risk.

“The ecology of vertebrates and the threats posed to them are reasonably well documented, and there is often more effort to conserve them—but the conservation attention paid to creepy crawlies lags far behind that of charismatic and well known animals like tigers, elephants and gorillas,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation. “We ignore the loss of invertebrates at our peril, as they provide many of the ecosystem services from which humans benefit.”

Invertebrates are the engineers of the many benefits which humans accumulate from an intact and fully functioning environment; however human demand for resources is continually increasing the pressure on invertebrate populations. This book paints a clear picture of how biodiversity is changing, and will enable experts to implement successful conservation plans for those invertebrates which are struggling to survive.

ZSL will be presenting ‘Spineless: Status and Trends of the World’s Invertebrates’ at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju on 7th September.

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Material for the Media:
IUCN Species Programme: http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/

Editors’ Notes
High-resolution images available here: https://zslondon.sharefile.com/d/s9a0785c22234017b

About IUCN
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries.
IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. www.iucn.org, www.facebook.com/iucn.org, www.twitter.com/iucn,
Official Congress hashtag: #IUCN2012

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (or the IUCN Red List) is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It is based on an objective system for assessing the risk of extinction of a species should no conservation action be taken.

Species are assigned to one of eight categories of threat based on whether they meet criteria linked to population trend, population size and structure and geographic range. Species listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable are collectively described as ‘Threatened’.

The IUCN Red List is not just a register of names and associated threat categories. It is a rich compendium of information on the threats to the species, their ecological requirements, where they live, and information on conservation actions that can be used to reduce or prevent extinctions.

The IUCN Red List is a joint effort between IUCN and its Species Survival Commission, working with its Red List partners BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Microsoft; NatureServe; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A&M University; Wildscreen; and Zoological Society of London. www.iucnredlist.org www.facebook.com/iucn.red.list @amazingspecies

About the Species Survival Commission
The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 7500 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity. SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.

ZSL
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: the key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 50 countries worldwide. For further information please visit www.zsl.org

Wildscreen
Wildscreen is an international charity working to promote the public understanding and appreciation of the world's biodiversity and the need for its conservation through the power of wildlife imagery -www.wildscreen.org.uk Founded in 1982, Wildscreen is uniquely positioned at the heart of the global wildlife and environmental media industry, with a long standing international reputation for excellence and credibility in the fields of natural history media, communications and education. Wildscreen’s ARKive project is a unique global initiative, gathering together the very best films and photographs of the world's species into one centralized digital library, to create a stunning audio-visual record of life on Earth. ARKive’s immediate priority is to compile and complete audio-visual profiles for the c. 18,000 animals, plants and fungi featured on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.www.wildscreen.org.uk ; www.arkive.org

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