CANBERRA, March 10 (Xinhua) — Species that have been discovered recently face a higher risk of extinction than those identified long ago, Australian researchers have found.
According to the study, which was published by Australian National University (ANU) on Thursday, species described between 2011 and 2020 are almost three times more likely to be threatened than those discovered in the 1700s.
“There’s been lots of recent discussions about extinction rates, but there’s a whole lot of undescribed biodiversity out there,” David Lindenmayer, a forest ecology expert and author of the study, said in a media release.
“Once you start looking into the description and discovery of new species, it turns out that they are the ones most at risk of extinction. This suggests that there’s going to be a lot of biodiversity lost before it is even described.”
Lindenmayer’s team analyzed more than 53,000 species across five vertebrate groups on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
They found that 30 percent of all species described between 2011 and 2020 were on the list compared to 11.9 percent of those discovered from 1758 to 1767.
The analysis predicts that the higher rate could increase to 47.1 percent by 2050.
Lindenmayer said newly described species are at a higher risk of extinction for a few reasons, one of which being that they often have smaller population numbers and restricted ranges, leaving them vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation.
“As these newly described species are often rare, there is also a strong black market in illegal wildlife trade, leaving these species at a high risk of poachers,” he said.
Lindenmayer called for intensive surveys targeting areas with high biodiversity to accelerate the discovery of new species.
“In Australia it is particularly important to conserve biodiversity as the vast majority of species in our terrestrial ecosystems don’t occur elsewhere,” he said.
“This means more field surveys are required to discover these species, followed by extra conservation efforts to aid their battles against extinction.”