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A quarter of freshwater fish species risk extinction by climate change: IUCN

Published: 14th Dec, 2023


Climate change driving multiple species towards extinction at all stages of its lifecycle, assessment noted.


Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss:

  • IUCN Assessment: Climate change is emerging as a significant driver of biodiversity loss, according to the latest update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
  • Freshwater Ecosystem:The assessmentreveals alarming trends, especially in freshwater ecosystems, and highlights the interconnectedness of climate change, habitat degradation, and other anthropogenic factors affecting diverse species.
  1. Freshwater Fish Under Threat:
  • Statistics: About 25% of the world's freshwater fish species face extinction risks due to climate change.
  • Factors:Decreasing water levels, shifting seasons, and rising sea levels impact 17% of threatened freshwater fish species.
  • Compound Threats:Climate change compounds threats from pollution (57%), dams and water extraction (45%), overfishing (25%), disease, and invasive species (33%).
  1. Species-Specific Impacts:
  • Lake Turkana Robber:Large-toothed Lake Turkana robber (Brycinusferox) in Kenya moves from least concern to vulnerable due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and dams.
  • Atlantic Salmon:Global population drops by 23%, moving the species from least concern to near threatened due to multiple threats during migration, climate influence, and invasive species.
  1. Green Turtle Populations Decline:
  • Threats:Central South Pacific and East Pacific green turtle populations move from endangered and vulnerable to extinction.
  • Climate Influences:High temperatures affect hatching success, rising sea levels threaten nests, and warming oceans impact seagrass growth, a crucial part of the turtle's diet.
  • Human Impact:Industrial and artisanal fishing contribute to incidental bycatch, while harvesting for consumption and trade further depletes numbers.
  1. Commercial Timber Tree Facing Extinction:
  • Big Leaf Mahogany:The commercially popular big leaf mahogany (Swieteniamacrophylla) moves from vulnerable to endangered.
  • Reasons:Unsustainable harvesting, urban encroachment, and agriculture lead to a 60% reduction in numbers over the past 180 years.
  • Ongoing Threats:Despite legal protection, illegal logging and trade persist, compounded by climate change impacts on habitat.
  1. Positive Conservation Outcomes:
  • Scimitar-Horned Oryx:Upgraded from extinct in the wild to endangered due to successful reintroduction efforts in Chad.
  • Saiga Antelope:Moved from critically endangered to near threatened, with population increase in Kazakhstan attributed to anti-poaching measures.

IUCN Red List Updated:

  • The IUCN Red List update underscores the vulnerability of global biodiversity to the complex interplay of climate change and various anthropogenic pressures.
  • Freshwater ecosystems, in particular, face compounded threats, with a quarter of freshwater fish species at risk of extinction.
  • The report sheds light on how decreasing water levels, shifting seasons, and rising sea levels intensify risks, affecting not only fish but entire ecosystems.

Impact on specific species:

  • Lake Turkana robber and Atlantic salmon: Notable case studies highlight the impact on specific species, such as the Lake Turkana robber and Atlantic salmon, where overfishing, habitat degradation, and changing climates contribute to their vulnerability.
  • Green turtle:The decline ofgreen turtlepopulations exemplifies the intricate relationship between climate factors, human activities, and the survival of iconic species.

Commercial Sector Impact:

  • Big leaf mahogany: The assessment also points to the commercial sector, with the big leaf mahoganyfacing extinction due to unsustainable practices and climate-induced habitat threats.
  • Illegal logging persists: Despite legal safeguards, illegal logging persists, underscoring the challenges in enforcing conservation measures.

Positive conservation efforts:

  • Scimitar-horned oryx: On a positive note, successful conservation efforts are evident in the case of the scimitar-horned oryx, showcasing the potential for species recovery through strategic initiatives.
  • Saiga antelope's: The Saiga antelope's shift from critically endangered to near threatened reflects the positive impact of anti-poaching measures, although ongoing threats persist.

Way Forward:

  • The IUCN Red List update emphasizes the urgency of addressing climate change as a primary driver of biodiversity decline.
  • Conservation efforts must integrate climate resilience strategies, legal protection, and community involvement to ensure the survival of vulnerable species.

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