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Extinction Closing in on Hundreds of Species in Dwindling Asian Forests, Duke Study Finds

Four out of ten species native to Southeast Asia’s natural forests face a much higher risk of extinction from habitat loss than previously thought, a Duke University-led study has determined. They are threatened by ongoing clearing of their forest for land that is converted into plantations for growing oil palm, rubber and other tree crops.

More than 200 of the mammal, bird and amphibian species that were newly identified as being at high risk by the study are not currently listed as threatened or endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Duke University said in a news statement.

“Many of these species have alarmingly small ranges that make them extremely vulnerable,” said Binbin Li, a doctoral student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study. “We may lose them before we are even able to get enough data to officially list them as threatened.”

Li and her team used newly available remote-sensing data to identify the unlisted species and their habitats, most of which are located in remote montane forests that snake across national borders in a region framed by eastern India, Singapore and China’s Yunnan Province, Duke University explained.

“Twenty-eight bird species, 147 amphibian species, and 42 mammal species were identified as being at high risk, despite currently not being listed as threatened or endangered by the IUCN. Scientists often refer to many of these species as being ‘Data Deficient,’ because knowledge about their numbers and geographic distribution has historically been spotty and incomplete.”

Remotely Sensed Data Informs Red List Evaluations and Conservation Priorities in Southeast Asia A) Boundary of the study area. B) Elevation with names of major mountain ranges. C) Protected Areas from WDPA. D) Forest cover according to our definition. E) Forest classified by ESA. F) Comparison between the two forest maps. Credit: Binbin V. Li Alice C. Hughes Clinton N. Jenkins Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela Stuart L. Pimm Enlarge by clicking on the graphic
Remotely Sensed Data Informs Red List Evaluations and Conservation Priorities in Southeast Asia (click to enlarge)
A) Boundary of the study area. B) Elevation with names of major mountain ranges. C) Protected Areas from WDPA. D) Forest cover according to our definition. E) Forest classified by ESA. F) Comparison between the two forest maps.
CREDIT: Binbin V. Li Alice C. Hughes Clinton N. Jenkins Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela Stuart L. Pimm

The scientists published their findings Aug. 3 in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PLOS ONE.

More from the Duke statement:

By comparing the new information gleaned from remote sensing with maps of natural forests within national parks, preserves and other conservation areas in the region, the new study reveals that nearly 40 percent of the species likely have less than 10 percent of their habitats protected from future development or deforestation.

“And more than a quarter of the Data Deficient species have no coverage from protected areas at all,” Li said.

Many of the unprotected habitats cross national borders, she noted. This means increased international cooperation — including the creation of transboundary protected areas in biodiversity hot spots such as the Annamite Range of Vietnam and Laos — will be vital to the species’ survival.

Production of agricultural tree crops such as rubber and oil palm has expanded dramatically across mainland Southeast Asia in recent years.

“More than 56 percent of the world’s rubber and 39 percent of its palm oil are now produced in Southeast Asia, much of it on land that formerly was natural forest,” Li said. “Compared to the lush and diverse natural forest, few species can thrive in these green deserts.”

Increased use of remote-sensing technologies could help scientists and governments better identify which remaining natural forests should be made a conservation priority, said Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke, who co-authored the study. (Pimm is also an emeritus member of the National Geographic Committee for Exploration and a serving member of the Society’s Big Cat Initiative committee.]

“Without access to the new and frequently updated information remote sensing provides, between 20 percent and 40 percent of our current conservation priority areas could turn out to be a waste of effort because there are no forests, or natural forests, in them,” Pimm said.

“Remote-sensing technologies add a valuable new tool to our conservation toolbox,” he said. “They give us a much more accurate and up-to-date method for evaluating species’ threat levels — especially for unlisted endemic species such as these, which have largely been neglected in our conservation agenda.”

Other co-authors of the study were Alice Hughes of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens in China, Clinton Jenkins of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil, and Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela, a doctoral student at Duke’s Nicholas School.

Funding came from the China Scholarship Council.

CITATION: “Remotely Sensed Data Informs Red List Evaluations and Conservation Priorities in Southeast Asia,” Binbin V. Li, Alice C. Hughes, Clinton N. Jenkins, Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela, Stuart L. Pimm, , PLOS ONE, August 3, 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0160566.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Comments

  1. Kevin Hester
    Aotearoa NZ
    August 13, 7:53 pm

    Runaway abrupt climate change will extinguish most if not all complex life on the planet very soon.
    Professor Guy McPherson and I will be discussing this on a climate change tour of NZ in November 2016.
    The tour can be followed online globally.
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1144896312219485/?ref=1&action_history=%5B%7B%22surface%22%3A%22permalink%22%2C%22mechanism%22%3A%22surface%22%2C%22extra_data%22%3A%5B%5D%7D%5D

  2. Rhonda Jobson
    Canada
    August 10, 12:30 pm

    The fact that so many animal species are going extinct is not only horrifying and sad, it is absolutely illogical for a species to kill, destroy to the point whereby there own species is threatened by their very actions. How do we resolve this situation, this threat of exctinction for all species? I wish I had the answer but the sad reality is that there must be much greater legal penalties for the destruction of both land and animals. Disposable plastics must be banned. Green energy must be paramount and any oil produced energy must be banned. The list goes on and the fact remains we need government officials who are willing to take the hard way and make the decision which will not be popular, for the sake of all life on this planet.

  3. Rhonda Jobson
    Canada
    August 10, 12:30 pm

    The fact that so many animal species are going extinct is not only horrifying and sad, it is absolutely illogical for a species to kill, destroy to the point whereby there own species is threatened by their very actions. How do we resolve this situation, this threat of exctinction for all species? I wish I had the answer but the sad reality is that there must be much greater legal penalties for the destruction of both land and animals. Disposable plastics must be banned. Green energy must be paramount and any oil produced energy must be banned. The list goes on and the fact remains we need government officials who are willing to take the hard way and make the decision which will not be popular, for the sake of all life on this planet.

  4. Niome
    China
    August 10, 9:44 am

    You are so great!We are proud of you!