Study tracks wildlife hotspots

A new study released by the Wildlife Conservation Society has tracked wildlife hotspots where threatened species can take refuge from the ravages of unregulated poaching and trophy hunting.

But the authors warn that such refuges are rapidly shrinking in the face of ever increasing human encroachment.

In conjunction with a team of researchers from the University of Queensland, the WCS has mapped the distribution of wildlife “cool spots”, where wildlife is still thriving, while also tracking “hot spots where species are threatened by human activity.

Lead author James Allan of the University of Queensland said that the results painted a sobering picture of biodiversity.

“Nearly a quarter of the species assessed are threatened across nearly 90 percent of their distribution. Most distressingly, 395 species are impacted throughout their entire range and will almost certainly face extinction without action to remove the threats,” Professor Allan said.

Of the 5,457 species surveyed in the study, 2060 are amphibians, 2120 are birds, and 1,277 are mammals. Human impacts on these species extend across 84 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, and many charismatic species including lions and elephants are impacted across the vast majority of their ranges.

Some of the cool spots identified in the study include parts of the Amazon rainforest, Andes Mountains and the tundra and boreal forests of Russia and North America. Hot spots were dominated by areas in Southeast Asia where wildlife-rich areas are being increasingly threatened by rapid urban and agricultural development.

“It is obvious that the vast majority of imperiled species that are not extinct yet, will be if we don’t take pre-emptive action. We still have time to adjust and improve, but we need to use the results of this study to focus on saving those areas that as strongholds for these species,” UQ’s Professor James Watson said.

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