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Natural Awakenings

Preventing Extinction: Buying Time for Threatened Species

Sep 28, 2011 10:17AM

How long does it take a species to disappear forever? It turns out that habitat destruction drives species to extinction more slowly than previously thought, according to a new model described in the journal Nature. The pace at which plants and animals are vanishing from the planet as their habitats shrink may be overstated by as much as 160 percent or more.

An approach widely used to estimate extinctions from habitat loss is conceptually flawed, says a study in the publication. Researchers say that their new method more accurately reflects the interplay of shrinking habitats and the populations that rely on them. The new study is one of at least two that highlight scientists’ efforts to sharpen the tools needed to track the scope of the species-extinction problem and to design better approaches for dealing with it.

The development of a new tool for estimating extinctions, “... is welcome news, in the sense that we have bought a little time for saving species,” says Stephen Hubbell, an ecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and one of two scientists who performed the analysis. “But it’s [also] unwelcome news,” he adds, “because we have to redo a whole bunch of research performed using the previous method.”


Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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