Red List of endangered species needs to be tripled, say ecologists

Red eyed tree frog
The tiny agalychnis callidryas or red-eyed tree frog native to the rainforests of Central America
Current conservation list criticised for being biased towards vertebrates and neglecting most plants, fungi and invertebrates

A team of scientists have called for the widely used Red List, compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to be expanded into a broader representation of the world's endangered biodiveristy.

The so-called 'barometer of life' would need to monitor the status of 160,000 species, roughly three times the current 48,000 on the Red List.

Climate change

Writing in this week's Science magazine, prominent ecologists including Edward Wilson and IUCN chair Simon Stuart criticised the neglect of biodiversity amongst policymakers.

'[The] center stage is now occupied by concerns for the physical environment - in particular climate change, pollution and depletion of non-renewable resources.

'However, if the living world is to be kept in anything approaching a sustainable condition that can adapt to changes, then politicians, government officials, scientists and the public will need to give biodiversity the urgent attention that they are starting to give the physical environment,' said the authors.

Poor knowledge

Scientists believe that 1.9 million species have been discovered but estimate that the total number of species alive on earth may exceed 10 million.

The authors say an updated list, which could cost $60 million to compile, would enable scientists to better judge the health of the planet.

'Our knowledge about species and extinction rates remains very poor and this has negative consequences for our environment and economy.

'We propose that as scientists are better able to assess the conservation status of the species that compose an ecosystem the more they will understand the health of that ecosystem,' they said.

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