According to the report ‘Spineless,’ published by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in conjunction with IUCN, the invertebrates are under serious threat. The book was made public on 31st August, 2012.
Earthworms, butterflies, honey bees, houseflies, dragonflies, garden worms, etc. all have their roles in their ecosystems. What a pleasant pastime it will be if we spare some time to understand about invertebrates, their roles in ecosystem services, and indulge in reading about them and photograph their beautiful, adaptable, magnificent forms and sizes.
If we do so it will certainly strike out at our deeper inner and we will not be able to resist our bondage to them, for what they are, and for our evolutionary relationship to them. The beauty of a ladybird beetle, a butterfly, a colorful centipede and dragonfly and many more is irresistible!
Tiny insects have a role like pollination of our crops and our orchards: a service that they do free in one-to-one relationship with plants and trees which provide them nectar and pollens to eat, in return. Others like earthworms recycle waste nutrients and coral reefs support a myriad of life forms. Imagine if this all vanishes. Here is the deadly caution: several invertebrates are now on verge of extinction. And if they disappear, will follow the extinction of humans.
A slug (Mollusk): Photo by Dr.Zaka Imam
The IUCN report, 'Spineless' cautions against invertebrates' extinction
“The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) is currently trying to expand the number of invertebrates species assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™,” says Dr Simon Stuart, SSC Chair. “The early results of this work are included in the book, Spineless. I very much hope that the expansion of conservation-related information on invertebrates will give these species a much higher conservation profile in future.”
Conservation scientists have reviewed more than 12,000 invertebrates from The IUCN Red List; scientists have also discovered freshwater species to be under the highest risk of extinction, followed closely by terrestrial and marine invertebrates. These initial findings from global, regional and national assessments provide important insight into the overall status of invertebrates.
Scientists indicate that the threat status of invertebrates is very likely similar to that of vertebrates and plants. Invertebrates are at risk from a variety of threats: pollution from agricultural sources, dam construction, impact of invasive species and diseases.
“Invertebrates constitute almost 80% of the world’s species, and a staggering one in five species could be at risk of extinction,” says Dr Ben Collen, Head of the Indicators and Assessments unit at ZSL. “While the cost of saving them will be expensive, the cost of ignorance to their plight appears to be even greater.”
The highest risk of extinction tends to be associated with species that are less mobile and are only found in small geographical areas. For example, vertebrate amphibians and invertebrate freshwater mollusks both face high levels of threat– around one-third of species are at risk. In contrast, invertebrate species like dragonflies and butterflies, which are more mobile, face a similar threat to that of birds, and around one-tenth of species are at risk.
“The ecology of vertebrates and the threats posed to them are reasonably well documented, and there is often more effort to conserve them—but the conservation attention paid to creepy crawlies lags far behind that of charismatic and well known animals like tigers, elephants and gorillas,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation. “We ignore the loss of invertebrates at our peril, as they provide many of the ecosystem services from which humans benefit.”
Invertebrates are the engineers of the many benefits which humans accumulate from an intact and fully functioning environment; however human demand for resources is continually increasing the pressure on invertebrate populations. This book paints a clear picture of how biodiversity is changing, and will enable experts to implement successful conservation plans for those invertebrates which are struggling to survive.
ZSL will be presenting ‘Spineless: Status and Trends of the World’s Invertebrates’ at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jaju on 7 September.