As the world continues on the path of the latest great extinction event numerous organisations and assemblies have gathered in a bid to save the species of Earth. Most of the worlds governments have committed to the cause in some way, but who is working hardest to save the biodiversity and the ecosystems we rely on, and which countries are not fulfilling their commitments to conservation?
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Whilst many governments (and some conservationists) believe that the best way to save a species is with a huge increase in spending these next few have shown this is not the way to save the species that calls these areas home. Instead these countries have been making ground with the use of long-sighted legislation to protect areas and remove threats such as invasive species.
An island nation made up of over 300 small islands, Whilst only around a third of these islands re inhabited many of the remaining landmasses have been protected by naming them as nature reserves. The area is dominated by mountains and tropical rainforests. Being separated by the ocean from its nearest neighbours the wildlife has been allowed to diversify giving rise to hundreds of endemic plants and animals. Most notably are the endemic bird species with over 20 being found nowhere else on earth.
The Seychelles are a collection of 115 islands just South of the Equator in the Indian ocean. The Islands are home to many species found nowhere else and boasts one of the highest numbers of endemic species of any country. The island is home to many endemic reptiles and amphibians, but is also the set of one of the greatest recoveries of any species the Seychelles Warbler. With determined conservation efforts this birds number grew from just 30 to over 3000 individuals today.
Island nations are generally some of the most successful when it comes to conserved biodiversity. This can linked to the fact that isolated places have far more endemic species then areas connected by land. If all species protected are endemic to their areas then the biodiversity protected would be great. However, that is not the only reason these countries succeed. Much of these nations economy relies on tourists who want to see the diversity. Because of this, a large emphasis is put on conserving the diversity and in some cases species don’t only survive but start to thrive on the islands.
Brazil is a huge country that also contains a large percentage of the Amazon rainforest. Within the borders of Brazil up to 10% of the worlds species can be found. Even with this huge amount of diversity Brazils overall deterioration of biodiversity was less than 1 percent.
Another large country, India covers up to 1.5% of the earths land mass. It is also extremely diverse in the habitats from the Himalayas, through wetlands and to the coastal regions in the South. With around 45,000 species found in India and despite the numerous issues faced by India, including poverty the government has attempted to provide for their people by embracing conservation protects and educating those that live there about the benefits of wildlife.
Also in this list other nations included are; Peru & Madagascar. These countries all contain a large amount of diversity and a range of habitats. These countries are not wealthy countries and struggle with economic difficulties, in spite of this they have managed to keep the loss of diversity relatively low compared to many of their neighbouring countries.
Despite North Americas size and wealth conservation action has had limited success here. America is a country that has lost the most biodiversity in recent years. The reasons for this cannot be explained by resources alone, being as wealthy as America is, but instead is likely the result of multiple factors. One of the biggest impacts on Americas biodviesity is the interaction of invasive species and also poorly implemented and monitored conservation efforts. With better monitoring and more usable legislation America has the potential to become a conservation powerhouse.
Surprisingly for many Australia’s conservationists are struggling to maintain biodiversity. Australia has a long and dramatic history of biological mishaps that have left their governments and agencies crippled by an explosion of invasive species. With high endemism from being home to the marsupials, plus with much of their resources being taken up by trying to control the spread of invasive Australia has been left unable to protect many of their species and continues to deteriorate without a long-term action plan.
These countries plus; China, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico are home to over 50% of the worlds species which may explain why they have had the highest rates of deterioration and extinction as they struggle with multiple factors, logging, agriculture and poaching, and are unable to protect all the species.
Where do we go from here?
The worlds governments have failed to meet the targets outlined in the 2010 deal to slow the rate of global species extinction. The worlds governments have readdressed their efforts and many countries agreed to the Aichi Biodiversity Target 12. Target 12 is an effort to prevent extinctions of known species at risk and ensure that species, with a focus on those most at risk, have their conservation status reversed and populations improve. These targets will be assed in 2020 and will show if we as a planet have been able to protect the species of Earth. If not, what sort of species will still exist on this planet, and which will be lost forever?
It is clear to see by the successes and the failures in this list, that money doesn’t buy protection for these species. What we need to work for as scientists and campaign for as citizens is long-term, well outlined and consistent conservation policy. If we can unite under this message, maybe we can save the at least some of the world.