Tag Archives: Learn From Nature

WILDLIFE UPDATE : Attenborough – asking us to ‘learn from nature’ and not ignore the signs!

David Attenborough's Life Stories

David Attenborough’s Life Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naturalist Attenborough is a man with a mission – to switch us on to our amazing environment – and the damages we are causing, now!  Henricus Peters

David Attenborough may have lived the perfect life, travelling the world and seeing its wonders before tourism ravaged them. He talks to The Observer’s Robin McKie about his early regrets, battles with climate-change deniers, and his favourite place on Earth

David Attenborough

David Attenborough (Photo credit: London Permaculture)

It is hard to believe that David Attenborough has ever mistreated a single animal in his life. This is a man for whom the natural world is sacred, after all. Yet midway through our interview, organised to promote his new television series Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild, a crestfallen look crosses the great naturalist’s features when I ask if he has any regrets about his career.

“Jumping on animals. I regret that,” he states. I blink in disbelief. It is as if Judi Dench had admitted to glue-sniffing. Attenborough explains. “Fifty years ago, I used to go along, chase a giant anteater and pull it by the tail so we could film it. I am sorry about that sort of thing. But those were different days.”

Then there was the time he and his crew were stuck in Borneo and strapped for something to film. “I found a little crocodile and we did a cod sequence with it. We filmed it close up so that it looked like a really big crocodile. I then took off my shirt and jumped on it. Everyone thought I had a fight with a full-sized crocodile. ‘God you were brave,’ they told me. I wish I hadn’t done that.”

And as for eating turtle eggs, he pulls a face. “They were horrible, salty. I wished I hadn’t done that either.”

As crimes against nature, these are minor transactions, it must be admitted. Yet they are informative – for it is easy to forget how attitudes to wildlife have changed since Attenborough began his career in 1952 on programmes such as The Pattern of Animals and, later, Zoo Quest. Wild creatures were still viewed from a Victorian perspective in those days. They were there to be tracked, captured, tied up and brought back to Britain to be goggled at. Attenborough was no different from other naturalists at the time, he admits.

Zoo Quest was certainly made in that mould, he believes. For the nine years it aired, Attenborough would travel with staff from London Zoo to a tropical country to capture an animal for the zoo’s collection, a practice that was considered to be perfectly acceptable at the time. Attenborough’s first assignment was to track down a white-necked Picathartes in Sierra Leone on the grounds that no other zoo in Europe had one or even knew what it looked like. “I thought: ‘Oooh, a bird that no one has ever even seen. I must become the first European to get one.’ It was very childish really.”

Today Attenborough, like the rest of us, has a far more respectful attitude to animals, as the new series makes clear. Indeed, ifAttenborough: 60 Years in the Wild has a theme it is that of transition. How attitudes to the natural world have changed and how knowledge of living things has been transformed by modern science. Not to mention the leap that has taken place in the film technology bringing the wonders of the world into our front rooms, from clockwork, wind-up cameras to stop-frame photography and thermal imaging.

An example of these technological changes is provided in the living room of Attenborough’s own elegant west London home. It is dominated, not by images of wildlife or native art, as you might expect, but by a giant 50in 3D television. Now Attenborough is certainly no geek – he can’t drive and has trouble answering his mobile phone, he says – but he has pioneered a recent series of 3D programmes for Sky. He is clearly in thrall to the technology and keen to demonstrate its wonders.

Attenborough bustles round the set, pulling out discs from a Blu-ray player, and flicking through scenes. The tasks involve a great deal of kneeling and bending over, which Attenborough accomplishes with no hint of stiffness or back pain that would leave many younger men groaning. Dressed in an open-neck light-blue shirt, chino slacks and loafers – an Attenborough uniform to judge from other interviews – he could easily pass for a man 20 years younger and is clearly determined to keep up with the latest developments in his profession.

“I began my career in broadcasting on the old 405 line, black-and-white TV that was broadcast from Crystal Palace,” he adds. “I wasn’t going to say no to doing a programme in 3D that would be displayed on huge colour screens when I was offered the chance.

“On the other hand, as a medium, 3D TV is certainly not perfect. You are limited to what you photograph. You cannot use long focal lenses because of problems with background. And the cameras require two or three men to carry them. But oh, when you see time-lapse photography of plants flowering in 3D, the results are absolutely mesmeric.”

However, the real change in our perspective of the natural world is not due to improvements in TV technology but has been achieved through scientific revolutions, particularly in the fields of biology and geology. These have been the real game changers, Attenborough believes. “We forget what we have learned in the last 60 years. At university I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could I prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.”

Yet we now know that continental drift explains a vast amount about the variation in the planet’s plants and animals – for example the presence of similar families of earthworms in central Africa and in central South America – continents which were once attached to each other. Continental drift featured strongly in Life on Earth, Attenborough’s first great series on the natural world, in 1979. What his old lecturer made of the programme is not recorded.

Since then a host of great scientific visionaries have been interviewed by Attenborough, with Konrad Lorenz providing an unforgettable early start. Lorenz won a Nobel prize for physiology for his work on animal behaviourand had an astonishing affinity with many species, in particular greylag geese. Would he like to appear on TV and demonstrate that empathy on the air, Attenborough asked.

Lorenz agreed and was filmed clutching a goose provided by London Zoo. “Komm, komm, mein Liebchen,” he murmured to the unhappy animal which, as Attenborough relates, eventually squirted a jet of green dung straight at the great scientist, covering his trousers. Lorenz released the goose, wiped his clothes with his handkerchief before absent-mindedly blowing his nose with it. He completed his interview, on camera, with a green smear down his face.

Other stars to receive homage in 60 Years in the Wild include Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their ape-observation work, Francis Crick and Jim Watson for their discovery of the structure of DNA, and Richard Dawkins for his ideas about the selfish gene. “These people have completely transformed our understanding of the animal world. We see the world very differently today thanks to them.”

Finding ways to film these scientific visions has taken Attenborough to every conceivable place on the planet. He donned a diving suit for underwater sequences filmed for The Trials of Life in 1990; has been lifted to the top of rainforests by cranes; spat at by cobras; flattened by a belligerent Scottish capercaillie; and, of course, been groomed by gorillas in that glorious sequence in Life on Earth.

So which spot on the planet would he recommend to give people a chance to enjoy living creatures at their best? The Galápagos with their iguanas? The Amazon rainforest? His answer comes as a surprise. “People say you cannot beat the rainforest. But that is simply not true. You go there and the first thing you think is: where the hell are the birds? Where are the animals? They are hiding in the trees, of course. No, if you want beauty and wildlife, you want a coral reef. Put on a mask and stick your head under the water. The sight is mind-blowing.

“And that, actually, is still a mystery: why are coral reefs so beautiful and colourful? It is not immediately obvious, though the wildlife is wonderful: shell-less molluscs, crustaceans and shoals of fish that do not give a damn whether you are there or not. Your first trip to a coral reef will be one of the most transforming moments of your life.”

There is, of course, a downside. Coral reefs are now being destroyed at a staggering rate. Some estimates suggest around 600 square miles are lost every year, a rate double that of rainforest destruction. Reefs are dying because ocean waters are being acidified as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere as a result of human industrial activity. At the same time, rainforests are being ploughed up for farmland.

And this takes us to the darker side of the changes that Attenborough has seen in 60 years. Just as we are learning more and more about the glories of the living world, and as new breath-taking visions are being brought into our homes, we are destroying these wonders at an accelerating rate. It is a simple question of numbers, says Attenborough. “There is no problem on Earth that could not be solved quite easily if you could reduce world population. The reason that oil palms are being planted all over the place is because there are so many mouths, so many people in the west offering to pay for these forests to be cut down and palms planted for margarine, for plastics.”

Plastic refuse turns out to be a particular concern for Attenborough, who is working on a film that will highlight the crises facing our oceans. “It is just tragic,” says Attenborough. “You have got an albatross that comes back to feed its young. In close-up, it regurgitates the stuff it has been collecting round the world’s oceans for 10 days to feed its chicks and what comes out? Bits of plastic. And then you see the chicks swallowing this plastic. If you warm the plastic, it gives off dioxins. And the litter of this stuff. You can only get rid of it if you can burn it – and then it gets worse.”

It is a grim picture, though Attenborough is not without some shred of optimism. “If I have to grasp for little threads of hope, one is that humans are going to be better informed about the state of the world than they have ever been in the planet’s history. Kids in Tibet are going to be talking to people in Patagonia about what is happening to the Earth and there is a chance that a worldwide, slow protest movement will grow with younger people wanting something to be done.”

 
Much of their awareness of the living world and the perils facing its wildlife will have come from Attenborough, of course. In the past, he was criticised for not making clear his position on global warming, and for not taking on those who deny that climate change is occurring. However, in the past few years, he has been far more explicit in his warnings about the dangers our planet faces as it warms up and the polar regions melt.

Not surprisingly, these attempts at enlightenment have brought him into conflict with those who reject the idea that the Earth is in peril. For example, in the final episode of his last major series, Frozen Planet, Attenborough highlighted the impact of global warming on the polar regions. He pointed out that summer sea ice cover has declined by more than 30% over the past few decades and is causing major disruptions to the wildlife.

Nigel Lawson, former chancellor and leading climate-change denier, was unamused. “Sir David’s alarmism is sheer speculation,” he claimed after the programme was transmitted last year. “When it comes to global warming, [Attenborough] seems to prefer sensation to objectivity.” Attenborough, said Lawson, should have acknowledged that although the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining over the past 30 years, satellite observations have also shown that, at the other pole, Antarctic sea ice has been expanding over the same period.

Sensationalism is not an accusation that many have made about Attenborough in the past. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the Order of Merit in 2005. He does not, generally, shoot his mouth off and many scientists were quick to jump to his defence. These included oceanographers who pointed out that yes, summer sea ice in Antarctica has increased over the past 30 years, but only slightly – by about 0.4 million square kilometres, an upward trend that may actually be no more than a reflection of year-to-year variability. By contrast summer sea ice in the Arctic has declined in extent by about 3 million square kilometres in the past 30 years: a vast decrease. Lawson was guilty of being economical with the truth, to put it mildly.

So what does Attenborough think about climate change deniers like Lawson? What should be done to counter their highly selective views about global warming?

“Well, it is difficult to know what to say except that people like him have to be allowed to make these claims so that others can assess them. Any idea of suppressing their views would be disastrous. We need to be able to see just how wrong-headed they are and how selective they are in picking data to support their ideas. They pinpoint examples to say global warming cannot be happening because it got colder in some area of the planet. That is the sort of thing they say. But, of course, that completely misunderstands the global nature of the crisis we are facing. We have to keep pointing that out. Certainly I think that most people would recognise that Lawson is up a gum tree.

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”
Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild begins on BBC2 on 16 November at 9pm

CLIMATE CHANGE : David Attenborough: ‘US politicians avoid the issue due to cost’

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Attenborough 1

David Attenborough 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Attenborough: Will it take a terrible case of example of extreme weather to wake people up? Maybe – but this writer hopes folks are slow becoming more aware – and taking positive action to learn from Nature! 

One of the world’s leading naturalists has accused US politicians of ducking the issue of climate change because of the economic cost of tackling it and warned that it would take a terrible example of extreme weather to wake people up to the dangers of global warming.

Speaking just days after the subject of climate change failed to get a mention in the US presidential debates for the first time in 24 yearsSir David Attenborough told the Guardian: “[It] does worry me that most powerful nation in the world, North America, denies what the rest of us can see very clearly [on climate change]. I don’t know what you do about that. It’s easier to deny.”

Asked what was needed to wake people up, the veteran broadcaster famous for series such as Life and Planet Earth said: “Disaster. It’s a terrible thing to say, isn’t it? Even disaster doesn’t do it. There have been disasters in North America, with hurricanes and floods, yet still people deny and say ‘oh, it has nothing to do with climate change.’ It visibly has got [something] to do with climate change.”

But some US politicians found it easier to deny the science on climate change than take action, he said, because the consequence of recognising the science on man-made climate change “means a huge section from the national budget will be spent in order to deal with it, plenty of politicians will be happy to say ‘don’t worry about that, we’re not going to increase your taxes.’”

Neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney mentioned climate change in three TV debates, despite a summer of record temperatures and historic drought in the US.

Romney used Obama’s commitment to taking action on climate changeas a joke in his convention speech. The president later hit back by saying “and yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke.” However, environmentalists have been critical of Obama’s silence on the subject and the Green party presidential candidate, Jill Steinwent as far as saying it meant he was, in effect, “another climate denier”.

Attenborough said he thought the US’s attitude towards climate change and the environment was not just because of politics, but because of the country’s history. “[It's] because they’re a pioneer country. There has been the wild west, the western frontier… that’s still there, you see it in the arms business, the right for everyone to bear arms. It’s part of the pioneer stuff that you’ve [Americans] grown up with.”

By contrast, he said, people in the UK had “grown up with a mythology of black industry and wrecking the countryside.”

The current financial crisis has made it problematic for politicians to show leadership on climate change, Attenborough acknowledged. “Well it’s a very difficult time to do it [show leadership]. In times of recession, it’s a very difficult time to advance these arguments [on the urgency of tackling climate change] that mean you have to spend even more money and take money from taxes to do things,” he said.

Yet he also warned that it was becoming clear the impacts of climate change were worst than had been expected. Talking about the record Arctic sea ice melt this summer, he said: “The situation is worse than we thought [in the Arctic]. The processes of melting are more volatile than we thought. More complicated. The ice cap is really melting faster than we thought.”

The 86-year-old naturalist, who is also a patron of the charity Population Matters, said many of the environmental problems the world faced could be helped by addressing human population, which is believed to have reached the 7 billion mark last year, and is forecast to reach 10 billion by the middle of the century.

The solution, he said, was to raise living standards and increase democracy in developing countries. “The only way I can think of it [tackling population] is by giving women the rights to control their own bodies and control how many children they have. In every circumstance where women have that right, where they have the vote, where they are proper medical facilities, where they are literate, where they are given the choice, the birth rate falls,” he said. “That is a good start, if that could be spread.”

• You can read more of Sir David Attenborough‘s views on climate change and animals in this Sunday’s Observer magazine

BADGER UPDATE: Vaccine breakthrough may mean no more badger culls…?

Finally – hopefully – some timely good news for these wonderful creatures! Henricus Peters

British scientists have made a breakthrough which may enable cattle to be vaccinated against TB, doing away with the need to cull the badgers believed to be infecting them. Michael McCarthy of The Independent reports 

Currently, vaccinating cattle against bovine tuberculosis is banned throughout Europe, because there is no way of distinguishing in current diagnostic tests between an animal that has merely been vaccinated, and an animal that has actually contracted the disease.

Vaccinated but healthy cattle would thus appear contaminated and could not be sold or traded abroad – and TB vaccination of cattle has been prohibited across the EU since 1978.

However, researchers led by Professor Glyn Hewinson, of Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey, have developed a so-called “diva” test – meaning differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals – which makes the distinction between the two clear.

Such a test, if used in conjunction with a new cattle TB vaccine being developed simultaneously, would enable the Government to ask the EU for the law to be changed, so cattle could indeed be immunised against a disease which is rapidly spreading in parts of Britain, and has precipitated the highly controversial badger cull that is about to start.

However, both the vaccine and the test have to be validated by regulatory agencies, a long and complex process which “may take years”, according to the Government’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens.

That has to happen before EU law could be altered and the cattle vaccination ban lifted. In the meantime, the trial cull of badgers is set to begin in two pilot areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset.

The trial cull, which is strongly supported by farmers but has attracted intense opposition from animal welfare activists, who have been accused of harassing farmers and who have threatened to disrupt nighttime shooting operations.

The development of the diva or differentiation test was “absolutely critical”, Mr Gibbens said.

“Yes, it has been developed, but there is a long way to go,” he said. “We believe we’ve got one that can be practically applied, but in terms of getting international recognition for it, it is months and possibly years away.”

Such a test has to be validated by the Paris-based OIE – the Organisation Internationale des Epizooties – or the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Similarly, the new cattle TB vaccine being developed in parallel by the Weybridge team has to be validated for efficacy and safety by Britain’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate – a process which has already begun.

If both are passed as fit for purpose, Britain can then attempt to persuade the other 26 member states of the EU to lift the vaccination ban, something to which the Government is committed, Mr Gibbens said. “We’re determined to push this through,” he said. “But to get the vaccine and the test sorted, and a change in EU law, is some years away. I really would like to say we could accelerate this whole process, but I think ‘years’ is right.”

Mr Gibbens, who has been Chief Vet, based in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since 2008, said that more than £34m had already been spent on research “and we’re committed to spending [£15.5m] in the next four years on a whole range of parallel streams of activities to try and get vaccines for cattle and badgers”.

The other main area of the research is on an oral TB vaccine for badgers, which would be much simpler to administer – as it could be left out in bait – than the present injectable badger TB vaccine, which was licensed in 2010, and for which badgers have to be individually cage-trapped. Such an oral vaccine is being developed, Mr Gibbens said.

The Government is increasingly being criticised for not using the available injectable badger vaccine as a TB control programme instead of culling, something which is now happening in Wales.

Earlier this year John Griffiths, Environment Minister in the Labour Welsh Assembly, reversed the decision of the previous Labour-Plaid Cymru administration to carry out a cull, and a mass vaccination programme is being carried out in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. So far, 930 animals have been vaccinated

But the Government declines to go down this road, Mr Gibbens said, because “it’s not quickly effective enough, it’s difficult to do in practical terms, and it’s expensive”.

Cage-trapping badgers for vaccination (or indeed for shooting) costs about £2,500 per hectare, whereas simply shooting them as they run freely – which is about to happen in the English pilot culls – costs about £200.

While the cost of the pilot culls in England is to be met by farmers, the cost of the vaccination programme in Wales is currently being met by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Wildlife Update : 10 new mammals discovered in past 10 years

English: DRC, orthographic projection.

English: DRC, orthographic projection. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygm...

English: Pygmy Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) range (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a new monkey is identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, here are more recent discoveries of the last decade compiled by The Guardian.

As a new monkey is identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, here are more recent discoveries

Lesula monkey

The lesula – only the second new monkey found in Africa in 28 years. Photograph: Hart JA, Detwiler KM, Gilbert CC/PA

A new species of monkey has been identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The lesula, or Cercopithecus lomamiensis, described as shy and quiet, has excited conservationists because the identification of mammals new to science is rare. Here are some more discovered in the past decade.

Goodman's mouse lemursPhotograph: Thomas Marent/Minden Pictures/Corbis

A pair of nesting Goodman’s Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus lehilahytsara) photographed in Masoala national park, Madagascar. The species was discovered in August 2005.

A three toed pygmy sloth in a mangrove treePhotograph: Bill Hatcher/Corbis

The three-toed pygmy sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus), is endemic to Isla Escudo de Veraguas, a small island off the coast of Panama, and was identified as a distinct species in 2001.

A new species of Callicebus monkey discovered in Brazil in 2010Photograph: Julio Dalponte/Corbis

This previously unknown primate species was discovered during a WWF expedition into the rainforest in Mato Grosso in Brazil in 2010. The new species of the genus Callicebus monkey was found in an area of pristine Amazon rainforest.

This species of blossom bat was discovered in the Foja Mountains of Papua New Guinea in 2010Photograph: Tim Laman/National Geographic

Described by scientists as like the hummingbird of the bat world, this species of blossom bat was discovered in the Foja mountains of Papua New Guinea in 2010.

Tursiops Australis, a new species of dolphin discovered in 2011 in AustraliaPhotograph: EPA

A picture provided by Monash University in September 2011 shows anew species of dolphin in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay, Australia. The dolphins, Tursiops Australis, which can also be found at Gippsland Lake, have a small population of 150 and were originally thought to be one of the two existing bottlenose dolphin species.

A saola photographed in the jungle of VietnamPhotograph: AP

Looking like a small deer, the saola was originally identified as a new species from remains discovered in Vietnam in 1992 but a live animal wasn’t discovered until 2010.

Mus cypriacus, the Cypriot mouse, which was identified in 2006Photograph: AP

new species of mouseMus cypriacus, was identified in 2006. The mouse, which has a bigger head, ears, eyes and teeth than other European mice, is found only on Cyprus.

A newly identified Sundaland clouded leopard, caught on camera for the first time in BorneoPhotograph: A Wilting/A Mohamed/AFP/Getty Images

An image grab taken on 15 February 2010 shows a newly identifiedSundaland clouded leopard, caught on camera for the first time, stalking through the Dermakot forest reserve in Malaysian Borneo’s Sabah state. The Sundaland clouded leopard was classified as a new species through genetic studies several years ago but this was the first time that this little-understood species of big cat had been filmed.

A new species of rat, Paucidentomys vermidax, discovered in SulawesiPhotograph: Kevin Rowe/PA

A newly discovered “toothless” ratPaucidentomys vermidax, was found in remote rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 2011. The animal has fang-like upper incisors which are useless for gnawing and no back teeth. It lives exclusively on earthworms.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/13/new-mammals-discovered-10-years

Wildlife Update : More bad news : The little things that rule the world are facing disaster

English: Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifer...

English: Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera), Swedish “Flodpärlmussla”, from the river Navarån Västernorrland, Sweden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

International Union for Conservation of Nature...

Zoological Society of London

 

 

 

 

Invertebrates, the key monitors of the health of habitats, are – still – in trouble … When will those with backbone – us – ever learn?  Your thoughts here or at NAEEUK

A startling 20 per cent of world’s invertebrates, including insects and worms, are now endangered. The Independent’s Michael McCarthy reports

One-fifth of the world’s invertebrates, “the little things that run the world,” may be heading for extinction, according to the Zoological Society of London.

The society (ZSL) suggests that about 20 per cent of the world’s insects, spiders, worms, crustaceans, molluscs and other animals without backbones are endangered, for reasons ranging from pollution and over-harvesting to the effect of invasive species.

The report, entitled “Spineless”, and produced in conjunction with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the Red List of threatened species, is the first attempt at estimating the global conservation status of invertebrates.

Invertebrates constitute almost 80 per cent of the world’s 1.9 million known species and display staggering diversity, ranging from microscopic zooplankton to giant squid which can reach 18 metres in length.

But much less attention is paid to them than to vertebrate animals, which include mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, and are far fewer in number (totalling about 60,000 species).

And this is the case even though invertebrates are crucial in maintaining ecosystems – without insects, for example, we would lose much of the pollination services upon which agriculture depends, and without earthworms, the processes that spread organic matter through soil would be disrupted.

Two years ago, an earlier study suggested that a fifth of all vertebrates were facing extinction, and today’s report puts the conservation status of the smaller and more numerous invertebrate animals at the same level.

Threatened species in Britain include the brilliantly-coloured ladybird spider, once thought extinct and clinging on in Dorset and the freshwater pear mussel, famous for its pearls and now confined to a handful of rivers. Also at risk is the white-clawed crayfish, which has been ousted from many of its haunts by an American crayfish species. Others at risk in the UK include the shrill carder bee, the tansy beetle and the bog hoverfly, found only on Dartmoor.

The new report was carried out by analysing the 12,000 invertebrate species whose conservation status has been investigated and assessed by the IUCN, and projecting the threat across all species. It found that 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. 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.

“Invertebrates constitute almost 80 per cent of the world’s species, and a staggering one in five species could be at risk of extinction,” said Dr Ben Collen, of the ZSL.

The society’s director of conservation, Professor Jonathan Baillie, added: “We knew that roughly one fifth of vertebrates and plants were threatened with extinction, but it was not clear if this was representative of the small spineless creatures that make up the majority of life on the planet.

“The initial findings indicate that 20 per cent of all species may be threatened. This is particularly concerning as we are dependent on these spineless creatures for our very survival.”

At risk: Bugs’ lives

Bog hoverfly (Eristalis cryptarum)

A rare hoverfly that in recent years has been found only within a restricted area of Dartmoor.

Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum)

Threatened by loss of the extensive flower-rich areas and suitable nesting sites of long tussocky grass it needs to survive.

Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera)

Facing threats from illegal pearl fishing – 75 per cent of the species’ sites have been damaged by criminals.

Tansy beetle (Chrysolina graminis)

Once widespread, but dependent for its sole food source on the tansy plant, which is declining.

Source : http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/facing-disaster-the-little-things-that-rule-the-world-8096828.html

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