Sunday, April 11, 2010

How much do we really know about biodiversity?

Biodiversity loss is one of the biggest ecological problems in the world, and many animal and plant species are driven to extinction by factors such as habitat loss and climate change. In order to protect species from extinction we need to gather as much knowledge about them as possible. Many scientists will tell you that our current knowledge about animal and plant species is very poor, and latest estimates say that the number of all species in our planet should be somewhere between 10 to 20 million species, and we still haven't identified more than 2 million species (in fact only 1.9 million species have been identified so far).

The main reason why world hasn't discovered much more animal and plant species is mostly connected with the lack of sufficient funding. New animal and plant species are mostly discovered by thousands of volunteers worldwide through the Species Survival Commission, and according to the latest scientific study in order to learn more about the conservation status of millions of species we would need funds of around US$60 million a year.

Up to now almost 48,000 species have been assessed on the IUCN Red List, which costs about US$4 million each year, and although the Red List contains assessments of all species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reef-building corals, freshwater crabs, cycads and conifers, the vast majority of the world's species are poorly represented, including many plants, invertebrates, reptiles, fishes and fungi.

The logic is quite simple, the more we know about different species the better chance we have to preserve biodiversity of many ecosystems, and prevent extinction of many species. Biodiversity loss does not cause only big environmental damage but also big economic damage, and if $60 million is really the price we need to pay each year to get more knowledge then this is really a small price, especially when you consider possible environmental and economic effects.

Our planet possesses vast biodiversity, and we still how to learn so much about so many different species. The wonderful thing about our planet is an interconnection of life, so many different species and yet each one of them plays some significant role in their own ecosystem.

Adequate knowledge is a key success of any conservation efforts. The more knowledge would provide better information that could help governments and communities to design appropriate responses to climate change and to other pressing conservation challenges.

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