Scientists demonstrate how humans might prepare for mammal extinction rather than simply responding to it.

Most conservation efforts take a reactive approach. Before steps are taken to prevent extinction, such as the creation of protected areas, a species typically has to reach the threatened status. We can use current conservation data to predict which currently unthreatened species could become threatened and take proactive action to prevent their decline before it’s too late, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology on April 10.

The lead author, Australian National University professor Marcel Cardillo, asserts that “funding for conservation is really limited.”. “Ideally, we need a method for identifying species that may not be in danger right now but are likely to face danger in the future. Prevention is always preferable to treatment. “.

Cardillo and colleagues examined three facets of global change—climate change, human population growth, and the rate of change in land use—along with inherent biological traits that might make some species more vulnerable—in order to predict “over-the-horizon” extinction risk. By 2100, the team projects that up to 20% of land mammals will have at least two of these risk factors combined.

“Declaring protected areas has traditionally been a major component of conservation The fundamental concept is to eliminate or lessen the factors that are endangering the species.”

Lead author Marcel Cardillo of Australian National University.

The authors write that “globally, the percentage of terrestrial mammal species that our models predict will have at least one of the four future risk factors by 2100 ranges from 40% under a middle-of-the-road emissions scenario with broad species dispersal to 58 percent under a fossil-fueled development scenario with no dispersal.”.

In Sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Australia, there is a convergence of several future risk factors, according to Cardillo: climate change (which is anticipated to be particularly severe in Africa), human population growth, and changes in land use. And many species of large mammals are probably more vulnerable to these things. It’s essentially the ideal storm. “.

Particularly larger mammals, such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and kangaroos, are frequently more prone to population decline because their reproductive habits affect how quickly their populations can recover from disturbances. Larger mammals, like elephants, have lengthy gestation periods and give birth to fewer offspring at a time than smaller mammals, like rodents, which reproduce more quickly and in greater numbers.

According to Cardillo, creating protected areas has historically been a key component of conservation. “The fundamental idea is to eliminate or lessen the factors that are endangering the species. “.

“But it’s becoming more and more apparent that that’s very much a Western view of conservation because it dictates separating people from nature,” says Cardillo. It’s a kind of view of nature in which humans don’t have a role, and that doesn’t sit well with many cultures in many parts of the world. “.

The researchers assert that in order to stop animal extinction, we also need to be mindful of how conservation affects Indigenous communities. Numerous indigenous populations reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, and while Western conservation ideologies may have good intentions, they may also have unfavorable effects.

With the establishment of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), which are run with the assistance of rangers from nearby communities and are owned by Indigenous peoples, Australia has already started to address this issue. As established by cooperation between governments and private landowners outside of these protected areas, people and animals can coexist in these areas.

Because they can offer a broad framework and context for planning, Cardillo says that large-scale modeling studies have a crucial role to play. But in the mix as a whole, science makes up a very small portion. Our model is intended to serve as a catalyst for a shift in the way people think about conservation. “.

More information: Michael Cardillo, Priorities for conserving the world’s terrestrial mammals based on over-the-horizon extinction risk, Current Biology (2023). DOI: 10.1016/ … 0960-9822(23)00236-1

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