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GEO Year Book 2004/5  
UNEP Website GEO Home Page
Theme: BIODIVERSITY

Issues: Species loss
Habitat loss
Indicators: Number of threatened species
Ratio of area protected to maintain biological diversity to surface area*
*MDG indicator no. 26 under Target 9, Goal 7

Threatened species

The number of threatened animal and plant species indicates the extent to which biodiversity is at risk from human activities and pressures on the environment, such as the destruction of habitat. The number of threatened species continues to increase and has now reached about 6 700 animals and 8 300 plant species (Table 1). The considerably higher figure for threatened amphibians in 2004 (31 per cent compared to 2.9 per cent in 1983) is mainly due to preliminary results for Brazil, based on a different categorization method.

These figures need to be treated with caution. The total number of existing species is unknown, and the data on threatened species are incomplete (IUCN 2004). This is especially true for insects, molluscs, crustaceans and plants, since only small portions of these groups have been evaluated to date.

Table 1: Threatened species
Number of threatened species
 
Number of
described species
1996/98*
2000
2002
2003
2004
Threatened species in 2004 as
percentage of described species
Mammals
5 416
1 096
1 130
1 137
1 130
1 101
20
Birds
9 917
1 107
1 183
1 192
1 194
1 213
12
Reptiles
8 163
253
296
293
293
304
4
Amphibians
5 743
124
146
157
157
1 770
31
Fishes
28 500
734
752
750
750
800
3
Insects
950 000
537
555
553
553
559
0.06
Molluscs
70 000
920
938
967
967
974
1
Crustaceans
40 000
407
408
409
409
429
1
Plants
287 655
5 328
5 611
6 774
6 774
8 321
2.9
* 1996 – animals, 1998 – plants
Source: IUCN 2004

 

Figure 9: Protected areas as percentage of total land area by region and global, 1975–2004

Source: GEO Data Portal, compiled from UNEP-WCMC 2004

Protected areas

Although the reported data are incomplete, the trend indicates a steady increase in protected areas over the last decades at regional and global levels (Figure 9). The jump for West Asia between 1990 and 1995 is due to the establishment of a single large protected area in Saudi Arabia in 1994.

Excluding areas for which no starting data are known, the total protected area (terrestrial and marine) in the world is estimated to be 19.5 million km2 (as in November 2004), or about 13 per cent of the total land area (3.8 per cent of the Earth's surface).


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