The red list, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the most authoritative assessment of the status of species. The list published on Thursday adds almost 9,000 new species, bringing the total to 105,732, though this is a fraction of the millions of species thought to live on Earth. Not a single species was recorded as having improved in status.
A landmark planetary health check published in May concluded that human civilisation was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. Wildlife populations have plunged by 60% since 1970 and plant extinctions are running at a “frightening” rate, according to scientists.
“Nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history,” said Jane Smart, director of the IUCN biodiversity conservation group.
From the tops of trees to the depths of the oceans, humanity’s destruction of wildlife is continuing to drive many species towards extinction. The razing of habitats and hunting for bushmeat has now driven seven primates into decline, while overfishing has pushed two families of extraordinary rays to the brink. Pollution, dams and over-abstraction of freshwater are responsible for serious declines in river wildlife from Mexico to Japan.
“Loss of species and climate change are the two great challenges facing humanity this century,” said Lee Hannah at Conservation International. The red list addresses both, he said, by including the threat of global heating in the assessment of extinction risk.