Half of species not assessed for endangered list risk extinction: study
More than half of the species whose endangered status cannot be assessed due to a lack of data are predicted to be at risk of extinction, according to a machine-learning analysis published Thursday.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently has nearly 150,000 Red List entries for endangered species, including about 41,000 species in danger of extinction.
These include 41 percent of amphibians, 38 percent of sharks and rays, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 27 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds.
But there are thousands of species that the IUCN has not been able to categorize because they contain “insufficient data” and are not on the Red List, even though they live in the same regions and face similar threats to the species assessed so far. .
Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology used a machine learning technique to predict the probability of 7,699 data-deficient species facing extinction.
They trained the algorithm on a list of more than 26,000 species that the IUCN has been able to categorize, with data on the regions where species live and other factors known to influence biodiversity to determine whether it predicted their extinction risk status.
“These could be climatic conditions, land use conditions or land use changes, pesticide use, threats from invasive species or really a range of different stressors,” lead author Jan Borgelt of the university’s Industrial Ecology Program told AFP.
After comparing the algorithm’s results with the IUCN’s lists, the team then applied it to predict the extinction risk of the species with insufficient data.
Write in the journal Communication biologythey found that 4,336 species — or 56 percent of the sampled species — were likely in danger of extinction, including 85 percent of amphibians and 61 percent of mammals.
This compares with the 28 percent of species assessed by the IUCN Red List.
“We see that in most land and coastal areas around the world, the average extinction risk would be higher if we included species with lack of data,” Borgelt said.
A 2019 United Nations global biodiversity assessment warned that as many as one million species were at risk of extinction due to a number of factors, including habitat loss, invasive species and climate change.
Borgelt said the analysis revealed some hotspots for data-deficient species risks, including Madagascar and southern India. He said he hoped the study could help the IUCN develop its strategy for underreported species, adding that the team had contacted the union.
“With these machine learning predictions, we can get some sort of pre-assessments or we can use those as predictions to prioritize which species should be looked at by the IUCN,” he said.
IUCN Red List chief Craig Hilton-Taylor said the organization is constantly using new technology to reduce the number of data-deficient species.
“We also understand that with insufficient data, some of the species are at risk of extinction, and include this in our calculations when we estimate the proportion of endangered species in a group,” he told AFP.
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Jan Borgelt et al, More than half of species with insufficient data are predicted to be at risk of extinction, Communication biology (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s42003-022-03638-9
© 2022 AFP
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