• Switzerland's news in English

Swiss-based group laments 'extinction crisis'

AFP · 2 Jul 2013, 17:11

Published: 02 Jul 2013 17:11 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"The overall picture is alarming," said Jane Smart of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is behind the Red List of Threatened Species released on Tuesday. 

To date the list has assessed 70,294 of the world's 1.82 million known species of plants and animals.

Smart, who heads IUCN's biodiversity conservation union, insisted urgent and more efficient action was needed "if we are serious about stopping the extinction crisis that continues to threaten all life on Earth."

According to the update, 20,934 species are currently listed as "threatened with extinction", compared with 20,219 last October.

IUCN's Red List Manager Craig Hilton-Taylor pointed out to AFP that the rise of more than 700 species in this category was explained by increased pressure on a number of them. It was also due to species moving down from the more serious "endangered" category, as well as new species being added to the assessment list.

Tuesday's updates focused especially on the decline among conifers, a category of cone-bearing trees and shrubs that includes the world's oldest and largest organisms, such as the Bristlecone Pine that can live to be almost 5,000 years old and the Coast Redwood which can reach a height of 110 metres.

The report, which provided the first global reassessment of conifers since 1998, showed that a full 34 percent of the world's cedars, cypresses, firs and other such plants are threatened with extinction — compared with 30 percent 15 years ago.

A full 33 species of conifers had declined during this period, with the number now in the "endangered" category, teetering on the edge of extinction, jumping to 27 from 20 in 1998, according to Hilton-Taylor.

"We are sending a warning," he told AFP, stressing the huge importance of conifers both in economic terms as sources for paper and timber industries, and in environmental terms for their role of sequestering carbon.

"The more we have deforestation in the northern hemisphere, the greater the impact will be in terms of climate change," he said.

Tuesday's report also provided the Red List's first-ever global assessment of freshwater shrimps, lamenting that a full 28 percent of the carideans vital to freshwater ecosystems are threatened with extinction.

One such species, the Macrobrachium leptodactylus, was declared extinct after it fell "victim of habitat degradation and urban development," it said.

The Cape Verde Giant Skink, a lizard that had lived on a single island and two small islets and which was last seen in 1912, was also declared extinct, as was the Santa Cruz Pupfish, once found in the Santa Cruz River basin in Arizona, which disappeared due to water depletion.

Hilton-Taylor told AFP it varies greatly how quickly a species can be declared extinct, pointing out that the Cape Verde Giant Skink was believed to have been driven into extinction 100 years ago by the introduction of rats and cats, but that its rocky habitat had made it difficult to determine for sure that it was gone.

The Santa Cruz Pupfish, meanwhile, had not been seen in the wild since the 1960s, he said, voicing hope though that "it may still be in some hobbiest collection somewhere."

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Could Montreux host the 2026 Games? Photo: Ivo Scholz/Swiss Tourism

Montreux is to put itself forward as the host city for the 2026 winter Olympics as part of a potential bid by the cantons of Valais and Vaud.

Geneva car share scheme could help reduce city traffic
Catch a Car is aimed at short hops within a city. Photo: Catch a Car

Catch a Car, already in Basel, launches in Geneva next month.

Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Female employees in Switzerland earn 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues. File photo: Randy Kashka

Switzerland's gender pay gap means from today, Friday October 21st, women in the country will effectively be working for free for the rest of 2016.

Swiss luxury watches stolen in Paris raid
Police outside the Girard-Perregaux watch store on Thursday. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The 10 Girard-Perregaux watches are worth half a million euros in total.

Brother-in-law arrested over murder of Swiss teacher
The victim worked in a school in Stabio, near the town of Mendrisio. Photo: Oliver Graf

The primary school teacher was found dead in Ticino earlier this week.

Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available