A new research led by the Duke University reveals that 210 bird species that are not watched closely on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List are still at risk of extinction. The study, published on Nov. 9 in the journal Science Advances, urges action to save and protect the animals before it is too late.
“Good as it is, the Red List assessment process dates back 25 years and does not make use of advances in geospatial technologies,” says researcher Stuart L. Pimm, a Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
“We have powerful new tools at our fingertips, including vastly improved digital maps, regular global assessments of land use changes from satellite images, and maps showing which areas of the planet are protected by national parks.”
The study involved using remote sensing data to map land changes that affect the habitat of over 600 bird species in Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Brazil, Central America, the western Andes of Colombia and Madagascar. The team found that only 108 bird species are listed as at risk of extinction in the IUCN Red List.
However, the researchers discovered that 210 bird species are actually at increased risk of extinction as well. Moreover, the team also found that 189 bird species should now be considered as threatened.
The researchers said that the method that was used to compose the Red List is outdated. The list only considers the of the size of a species’ geographical range but not the preferred habitat that still remains.
“Some bird species prefer forests at mid-elevations, while others inhabit moist lowland forests,” says the study lead author Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela. “Knowing how much of this preferred habitat remains — and how much of it has been destroyed or degraded — is vital for accurately assessing extinction risks, especially for species that have small geographical ranges to begin with. But it’s ignored in the current Red List assessment process.”