Climate change impacting biodiversity on a global scale, latest IUCN assessments reveal | WWF
Climate change impacting biodiversity on a global scale, latest IUCN assessments reveal

Posted on 10 December 2019

WWF statement on latest IUCN assessments released today.
Gland, Switzerland, 10 December 2019 -  The latest assessments from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species reveal the alarming impact that the changing climate is having on the planet’s biodiversity. 

Established in 1964, The IUCN Red list - the world’s most comprehensive source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species - is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Despite promising signs of recovery for 10 species, 73 species have shown further decline since the publication of the last list in 2018. Of the 112,432 species on the list, 30,178 species are threatened with extinction. 

As the Climate COP enters its second week in Madrid, the impact of climate change on biodiversity was apparent in several assessments, due to alteration of habitats, increased strength and frequency of extreme weather conditions, increased temperatures and drought threatening numerous species. 

The latest assessment saw the status of eight bird species and two freshwater fish improve, including the Guam Rail, the second bird in history to recover after being declared Extinct in the Wild. Meanwhile, the Shorttail Nurse Shark moves from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered and the European rabbit moves from Near Threatened to Endangered - a worrying sign for its predator, the Iberian lynx, only recently recovered to 700 individuals from lows of 100.

In stressing the relationship between climate change and biodiversity loss, today’s assessments have once again highlighted the urgent need for concerted action ahead of a critical year for the planet in 2020. Next year, the world will have a momentous opportunity to set nature on the path to recovery - for the sake of people and planet - with world leaders scheduled to take critical decisions on nature, climate and development. WWF and others are calling for them to secure a new deal for nature and people that brings together these related agendas and reverses nature loss by 2030.

Margaret Kinnaird, leader, WWF’s Wildlife Practice said: "Our planet's species are in crisis. Humankind's ever-expanding footprint on the natural world is driving a catastrophic sequence of threats from loss of habitat to overexploitation, resulting in a 60 per cent decline in the world's vertebrates since the 1970s alone. Yet the emerging success stories announced today from fish to birds, show how these declines can be reversed with the right dedication and commitment. We have an opportunity to make these successes the norm rather than the exception by securing a New Deal for Nature and People that puts wildlife at the heart of our collective global agenda. 

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader, WWF Climate and Energy said: “WWF has always viewed our work on energy and climate through the additional lens of species protection. We recognize the impact that a changing climate can have on the ability of ecosystems to support plant and animal life, and the challenges that biodiversity will face in a warming world. The need to better connect the dots between climate, biodiversity and the other social and economic development challenges that we face is more important than ever. To avert the worst of these impacts we have to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5ºC. There is no time for debate. Only a dramatic increase in the ambition of our collective response can avert that climate crisis we are in. That is why we are calling for all governments at COP25 to push for deep and rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and increase nature-based solutions in their national climate plans.”

Stuart Orr, leader, WWF Freshwater said: “Slight improvements in the status of two Australian freshwater fish species are little cause for cheer when almost a third of freshwater species are threatened with extinction and when freshwater species populations have crashed 83 per cent on average since 1970. With the world’s wetlands continuing to be destroyed at an alarming rate and with most of our remaining free-flowing rivers threatened by new hydropower dams, we urgently need to transform the way we value and manage freshwater ecosystems to safeguard freshwater species – and our own societies and economies. Which is why WWF and partners are calling for nothing less than an Emergency Recovery Plan for Freshwater Biodiversity..”

Andy Cornish, Leader of WWF Sharks: Restoring the Balance, WWF's global shark and ray conservation programme said: “Red List updates to the conservation status of the pelagic shark and ray species are telling a dramatic story. Some of the most iconic, open-ocean species are now close to extinction, re-assessed as Critically Endangered or Endangered. Oceanic whitetip shark - once the most common species that ruled the open oceans - is now classified as critically endangered, with its global population down by 98 per cent. This is the last window of opportunity to prevent this and other pelagic species from going extinct in the wild on our watch. Urgent action to start recovering the oceanic whitetip and other dangerously depleted species is a must to stop this shark crisis."

Will Baldwin-Cantello, Leader of WWF Forest Practice said: “Habitat loss, including deforestation and forest degradation, is one of the main threats to biodiversity. The alarming decline in native eucalyptus species, particularly in Australia, is a stark reminder that we need to safeguard forests and stop destructive activities that are making our forests and the species that live in them disappear. Protecting and restoring forests must be at the heart of all efforts to halt biodiversity loss and tackle climate change.”

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For more information, please contact: Lilian Gikandi | WWF | | 

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