AboutZoos, Since 2008


Halt­ing bio­di­ver­sity loss requires polit­i­cal actions, not more sci­en­tific knowledge

pub­lished 29 Sep­tem­ber 2018 | mod­i­fied 29 Sep­tem­ber 2018

Over 15 years, almost 13,000 sci­en­tific papers have been pub­lished in lead­ing con­ser­va­tion sci­ence jour­nals. Nonethe­less bio­di­ver­sity remains threat­ened at a global scale. Two researchers of the Cen­tre National de la Recher­ché Sci­en­tifique (CNRS) in France have focused on this wor­ri­some para­dox by tak­ing a deeper look at this large vol­ume of lit­er­a­ture. They found that one of the major prob­lems is that deci­sions are usu­ally more favourable to human activ­i­ties than to nature pro­tec­tion. Their study is pub­lished online on 9 Sep­tem­ber in the jour­nal Trends in Ecol­ogy and Evo­lu­tion.

What are researchers doing? The sixth mass extinc­tion con­tin­ues and is even accel­er­at­ing, but con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tists, it is claimed, have no solu­tions to offer. Even more wor­ry­ing, the researchers would be so pes­simistic that the warn­ings they give could be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. But is this really the case?

Lau­rent Godet and Vin­cent Devic­tor, two CNRS researchers, have addressed this ques­tion. They exam­ined the 12,971 research arti­cles pub­lished dur­ing the last 15 years in the main sci­en­tific jour­nals ded­i­cated to con­ser­va­tion. Exclud­ing arti­cles deal­ing with dis­cus­sions in the dis­ci­pline, they pro­posed the first exten­sive empir­i­cal assess­ment of the sci­en­tific back­ground and out­put of con­ser­va­tion sci­ence in describ­ing the cur­rent sta­tus of bio­di­ver­sity, the threats, and the solu­tions accu­mu­lated by scientists.

Their ini­tial con­clu­sion is indis­putable: the remain­ing threats to bio­di­ver­sity today were already iden­ti­fied nearly 40 years ago, when they were quoted the “evil quar­tet.” They are (i) habi­tat destruc­tion (ii) over­ex­ploita­tion of resources, i.e., over­hunt­ing or over­fish­ing for exam­ple; (iii) intro­duc­tion of inva­sive species; and (iv) co-​extinctions that may be trig­gered by these fac­tors. To these four well estab­lished threats we may add the con­cern of cli­mate change, which fur­ther desta­bi­lizes nat­ural envi­ron­ments. And it is not “exotic” bio­di­ver­sity alone that is endan­gered: most research has focused on Euro­pean ecosys­tems, show­ing that pop­u­la­tions of com­mon species and habi­tats are also suf­fer­ing. This is, for exam­ple, the case for birds in the French coun­try­side.

Green sea turtleThe pop­u­la­tion of green sea tur­tles (Che­lo­nia mydas) — clas­si­fied as Endan­gered accord­ing the IUCN Red List — illus­trates an impres­sive suc­cess­ful con­ser­va­tion mea­sure. After con­crete pro­tec­tion and ban­ning their trade that had dec­i­mated their pop­u­la­tion, the aver­age num­ber of green sea tur­tle clutches deposited annu­ally at Ascen­sion Island has increased six­fold between 1977 and 2013. (Pho­to­graph taken on Mooréa).
Image credit: © Thomas Vignaud/​Te Mana O Te Moana/​Centre for Island Research and Envi­ron­men­tal Obser­va­tory (Perpignan)/CNRS Photo Library.

But for­tu­nately, con­ser­va­tion research also reports good news: like the come­back of the wolf in Europe and clear improve­ments result­ing from the appli­ca­tion of con­ser­va­tion mea­sures. Hence they con­clude that con­ser­va­tion sci­ence is nei­ther pes­simistic nor opti­mistic — just real­is­tic. Accord­ing to the researchers, a lot of sus­tain­able and human-​friendly solu­tions are already avail­able. The major obsta­cle is the demand for con­ces­sions even more favourable to resource exploita­tion rather than to nature pro­tec­tion, despite cau­tious sci­en­tific recommendations.

(Source: CNRS press release, 07.09.2018)

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Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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