Tackling alarming loss of species

Monday 14 October 2002

The world’s Governments may not be able to reach international targets for saving plant and animal species and their habitats because there are no reliable measurements of the rate at which they are disappearing, the Royal Society warned today (15th October 2002).

Announcing the creation of a working group to produce a strategy for identifying and conserving species and their habitats, the Royal Society, the UK national academy of science, points out that 100 world leaders at the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development in September committed themselves to “achieve by 2010 a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss”.

However, there is no international consensus about how to measure progress towards this target on a global scale. Without such agreed standards, countries will find it difficult to decide on which habitats and species they should concentrate, or to assess whether their conservation efforts are successful, according to the Society.

Professor Peter Crane FRS, who chairs the Royal Society working group on biodiversity, said: “The Johannesburg summit focused on tackling global poverty, and showed that biodiversity is linked to problems with water, energy, health and agriculture. Of the 1.2 billion people in extreme poverty around the world, about 900 million live in rural areas where they are highly dependent for their livelihoods on the diversity of plant and animal species and their habitats. The loss of biodiversity threatens the survival of some of the world’s poorest people and closes down options for sustainable development in the future.”

“There are parts of the world where animals and plants are becoming extinct at an alarming rate, and over most of the globe the variety of life is being severely eroded by human activity. Many thousands of species are critically endangered, and over the next hundred years, without concerted preventative action across the world, the loss of biological diversity is likely to accelerate dramatically.”

Amongst the working group is Professor Anne Magurran, of the University’s School of Biology. The working group’s study will evaluate the variety of methods used to assess the rate of biodiversity loss and recommend actions for more effective measurement and ongoing monitoring. The group will publish its findings next year.

The members of the working group are:

Prof Peter R Crane FRS (Chair), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Dr Andrew Balmford, University of Cambridge Prof John Beddington FRS, Imperial College London Prof Bland Finlay, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Prof Kevin Gaston, University of Sheffield Dr Rhys Green, University of Cambridge Prof Paul Harvey FRS, University of Oxford Dr Sandy Knapp, Natural History Museum Prof John Lawton FRS, Chief Executive, NERC Prof Georgina Mace FRS, Institute of Zoology Prof Anne Magurran, University of St Andrews Lord May of Oxford PRS, President, The Royal Society Dr Eimar Nic Lughadha, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Prof Peter Raven ForMemRS, Missouri Botanic Gardens Prof John Reynolds, University of East Anglia Prof Callum Roberts, University of York Prof Kerry Turner, University of East Anglia


1. The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. The Society’s objectives are to:

· recognise excellence in science
· support leading-edge scientific research and its applications
· stimulate international interaction
· further the role of science, engineering and technology in society
· promote education in the sciences and actively engage the public in scientific issues
· provide independent authoritative advice on matters relating to science, engineering and technology
· encourage research into the history of science

For further information about the Royal Society study, contact: Bob Ward, Press and Public Relations, The Royal Society, London. Tel: 020 7451 2516.


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected] Ref: royal soc working group pr 151002 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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