World Governments Agree on Zero Extinction Target

Representatives of 193 countries that met in Nagoya, Japan, last week at the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), agreed to halt global species extinctions through a zero tolerance target for species loss. The decision on the target, which came after lengthy negotiations, was adopted along with a new, more ambitious Strategic Plan to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

“This target represents a turning point in the relationship between the human race and the rest of the species that inhabit this planet” said American Bird Conservancy Vice President Mike Parr, who chairs the global Alliance for Zero Extinction. “We finally have the impetus we need to ensure that future generations can experience the same range of biological diversity that we have today.”

A critical tool that will be used in the effort to achieve this goal is a new Alliance for Zero Extrinction (AZE) map that pinpoints 587 single sites where 920 of the world’s most endangered wildlife species are located — places that if properly protected could help to avert the imminent global extinction crisis. Countries can use the AZE data contained on the map to identify those key sites where extinction mitigation measures can target the last critical populations of severely threatened species.

The AZE map and accompanying AZE data, are the result of the efforts of a network of hundreds of scientists and conservationists around the world. The new map and data were released in conjunction COP10. Together, these data resources represent a straightforward means for countries and international donors such as the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank to cost-effectively address the issue of imminent and predictable species loss, a central component of biodiversity conservation.

The governmental representatives agreed that by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

AZE was formed in 2000 to further efforts to prevent imminent species extinctions by identifying and safeguarding the places where species evaluated to be Endangered and Critically Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) for inclusion on their Red List of Threatened Species, are restricted to single remaining sites. To date, AZE has identified sites for mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, conifers, and reef-building corals, providing a tool to defend against many of the most predictable species losses

Several mega-biodiversity nations are already using AZE to successfully address species extinctions, including Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.

The global sites with the most AZE species are the Sierra de Juarez with 22 species, and Veracruz Volcanoes with 16 species, both in Mexico. Massif de la Hotte, Haiti is third with 15 species, followed by Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park, Colombia, with 12 species. Having a large number of sites does not necessarily reflect on a nation’s environmental performance, however, since a disproportionate wealth of biodiversity, such as that found in countries with a broad array of ecoregions in a small range, ultimately poses an extraordinary conservation challenge.

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