Gap species

Endangered species are not adequately protected in their habitats

Published: Wednesday 15 October 2003

Open your eyes: the yellow-ear (Credit: Birdlife International)analysis of 11,000 mammalian, amphibian and bird species shows major gaps in conservation practices. At least 709 bird, mammalian and amphibian species, threatened with extinction, currently have no protection whatsoever within their habitats, according to the most comprehensive analysis of the world's protected area system. In addition, many existing protected areas are so small in size that they are virtually ineffective for conservation purposes, placing another 943 species at risk.

The analysis was conducted by the Washington dc-based Centre for Applied Biodiversity Science (cabs) in collaboration with the Switzerland-based World Conservation Union's World Commission on Protected Areas. Based on the work of thousands of scientists and dozens of institutions across the world, scientists from cabs compared a map of all protected areas with maps of more than 11,000 habitats of the three groups (birds, mammals and amphibians). They then identified places where species live without any protection. Tropical areas and islands stood out as the most unprotected zones.

Of the 4,734 mammal species analysed for the study, 260 are 'gap species', meaning they have no protection in any part of their ranges. Of those, 54 per cent, or 140, are threatened. Still, of the three groups, mammals have the best coverage, partly due to their larger average range size. Critically endangered mammals currently unprotected include a rare fruit bat in the world, the Comoro black flying fox (Pteropus livingstonii). Of the 5,254 amphibian species analysed, 825 are 'gap species'. Of those, 346 are threatened. As a group, amphibians have significantly less coverage than mammals or birds, mainly due to their small ranges, but also because they have received much less attention. Critically endangered amphibians without current protection include the Bernhard's mantella (Mantella bernhardi). The world's 1,183 threatened bird species were also analysed, revealing 223 'gap species'. The largest concentration of unprotected birds is found in the Andes and Indonesia. Endangered bird species without protection include the yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis).

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