The Red List, a reference document of 142,577 species, both fauna and flora, identified for the first time more than 40,000 endangered species – 40,084 to be precise, warned the International Union for the Conservation of nature (IUCN), Thursday, December 9. While some species seem to be recovering and have been placed in less exposed categories, a larger number is on the contrary more threatened.
Among them, the Pyrenean desman, which is also nicknamed the trumpet rat because of its very elongated muzzle. This small mammal, which physically resembles shrews, moles and rats, is now considered to be ” in danger “, whereas previously the animal that lives in France and in the north of the Iberian Peninsula was classified “Vulnerable”.
Its population has fallen by half during the last decade, mainly because of the impact of the development of rivers, such as dams to generate electricity. The use of water for agriculture or to produce artificial snow for ski resorts in the Pyrenees have also made large areas uninhabitable for small animals.
For their part, dragonflies and damselflies are dying. At least 1/6e of these species is likely to become extinct, victims of the disappearance of wetlands, the natural habitat of these elegant colorful insects, warned the IUCN Thursday.
This is the first time that the body has made an inventory of the 6,016 species of dragonflies and damselflies – the odonata – listed in the world. And she estimates that 16% of them are threatened with extinction.
“Urgent need to protect wetlands”
“By thus highlighting the loss of dragonflies in the world, the red list (…) underlines the urgent need to protect wetlands and the rich biodiversity they support ”, says IUCN Director General Bruno Oberle. “These ecosystems are disappearing three times faster than forests all over the world”, he warns.
Between 1970 and 2015, it is estimated that 35% of wetlands in the world – lakes, rivers, marshes or even coastal or marine areas – have disappeared, according to a report from the Ramsar Convention on wetlands published in 2018.
While wetlands can often appear hostile to humans, “They provide essential services”, insists Mr. Oberle, recalling: “They store carbon, give us clean water and food, protect us from flooding and are the habitat of one in 10 known species in the world. “
“Climate change is a key factor”
Odonata are thus an excellent indicator of the health of wetlands. Dragonflies and damselflies are “Very, very sensitive to changes in the environment. And they therefore serve as a warning signal on what is happening in wetlands around the world ”, explained Craig Hilton-Taylor, responsible for “Red list” at IUCN.
Due to a lack of data on a number of the species assessed, it is impossible to say whether they are endangered or not, but he is concerned that 40% of the species may, in fact, be classified as threatened.
The situation is particularly deteriorated in South and South-East Asia, where more than a quarter of odonata are threatened, victims in particular of clearing and dewatering to make way for palm oil plantations. In Europe and North America, pesticides and pollutants as well as climate change are the greatest threats to these insects.
“Climate change is a key factor”, recalls Mr. Hilton-Taylor, because it causes droughts which have a devastating effect on their habitat. However, dragonflies are also a major predator of mosquitoes and other disease-carrying flies.
“It is in freshwater ecosystems that the collapse of biodiversity is most visible”, stressed for its part the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), whose own research shows an 84% drop in populations of species living in freshwater over the past 50 years, twice as fast as somewhere else. The NGO calls for an international mobilization “To protect our wetlands and rivers which are essential for the health of the planet and of all of us”.