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Wildlife conservation is essential to avoid ecosystem collapse

03 / Mar / 2023Ecosystems

Wildlife conservation is essential to avoid ecosystem collapse

World Wildlife Day celebrates CITES’ 50th anniversary and its collaborative conservation efforts

It is common knowledge that every living creature on Earth plays a role in keeping the balance and functionality of the ecosystems they inhabit (e.g. predators and prey). Some species may play a similar or “redundant” part, which means that their essential contribution to the functioning of the ecosystem is the same. For example, parrotfish graze on turf algae that grow on rocks to enable coral settlement, but there are other herbivores –like urchins– that also take on that role. On the other hand, there are keystone species that play a vital part in holding together the complex web of relationships in an ecosystem, such as the “reef-building” corals. Their decline or complete loss would cause a domino effect resulting in the collapse of the ecosystem, an irreversible change in its structure and functioning. Similarly, if we consider Earth as one huge ecosystem made up of many others, any changes at a small scale will have an impact on a global scale.

In light of this, every time a species vanishes, Earth’s capability to maintain ecosystem services is compromised to a degree. Nowadays, the IUCN estimates that 42,100 species worldwide are threatened with extinction, which is alarming. It is expected for extinctions to occur periodically, as part of the constant evolution forces of nature, but mass extinctions are defined as periods with much higher extinction rates than normal. There have been five big mass extinctions in Earth’s history –the so-called “Big Five”–, and many scientists think we are witnesses of the start of a new one. In fact, the latest WWF publication LIVING PLANET REPORT 2022 revealed that global wildlife populations have dropped almost by 70% on average since 1970. Such a dangerous decline indicates that the rich biodiversity that sustains all life on our planet is in crisis, putting every species at risk – including us

The legal and illegal wildlife trade is part of the conversation, as many endangered species are extracted from their natural environment as a consequence of this practice. Therefore, the date chosen by the United Nations to commemorate World Wildlife Day happens to be the birthday of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), signed in 1973. This year’s celebration coincides with CITES 50th anniversary and acknowledges its significant contribution to sustainability and wildlife. Specially recognizing the collaborative work for biodiversity conservation that is going on globally, this year’s theme is “Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation”.

This World Wildlife Day, let's step up our global efforts to conserve biodiversity. It's time to work together in strategic partnerships that respond to the targets and goals set in the recently established Post-2020 framework. Only by implementing integrative science-based actions will we be able to avoid the global ecosystem collapse that could follow if biodiversity loss is not reversed or halted on time.  


Written by: Susana Barreto

Style and format: Emy Miyazawa





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