Friday, October 10, 2008

Biodiversity Loss Still on the Rise

The recently-published State of the World's Birds reports that biodiversity loss is increasing as quickly as ever.

State of the Worlds Birds highlights several indicators that help to measure progress towards the 2010 target. The Red List Index for birds, based on the number and status of threatened species, shows that bird species are slipping faster than ever towards extinction. Other measures, including the Wild Bird Index for Europe, highlight rapid erosion around the world in the populations of more common and widespread birds, including songbirds, birds of prey, waterbirds and many migrant species. Initial results from monitoring of key sites, the Important Bird Areas, shows that their condition continues to deteriorate, though, encouragingly, more conservation responses are being put in place.

“Overall, the rate of deterioration has been speeding up since our last global assessment in 2004,” says Alison Stattersfield. “The accelerating decline in relatively common and widespread birds is especially alarming and can be linked to ever-increasing pressures on natural habitats. Our data suggest that recent policy changes such as the drive towards producing biofuels are damaging biodiversity and seriously undermining efforts to meet the 2010 target.”
Birds are relatively easy to census and monitor over the long term. They also tend to sit near the tops of their respective food webs. That makes them good indicators for the overall health of the ecosystems they inhabit. If we are still losing birds at such an alarming rate, then presumably we are losing an even larger number of other species.