Earth’s biodiversity is rapidly disappearing, with an estimated 1 million animal and plant species currently threatened with extinction. Fighting to save species, habitats, and ecosystems from extinction using an evidence-based approach has been the central mission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 1948. Last week we had a unique opportunity to raise awareness about firefly diversity, to start identifying those firefly species most threatened by extinction, and to take positive action to conserve them.
We landed in Abu Dhabi, where our IUCN Firefly Specialist Group had been invited to meet with leaders of other Specialist Groups. For decades, these groups have been focused not only on charismatic wildlife like lions and leopards, pangolins and polar bears, but also on frogs and fungi, seahorses and seagrass. We were so honored to bring fireflies to this conservation forum for the first time! Over four intense and productive days, we shared ideas, challenges and opportunities with 300 volunteer scientists and species conservation experts all passionately dedicated to conserving Earth’s biodiversity. It was educational, exhilarating, and exhausting – and also very hot (we were encouraged not to go outside because it felt like 128ºF one day)!
“We call on all people, especially young people, to make a stand and stand up for all species.”
The Abu Dhabi Call for Global Species Conservation Action, 2019
Which fireflies are fading out & how can we save them?
Going forward, our Firefly Specialist Group will apply evidence-based science to identify which fireflies are most at-risk by assembling what we already know about each species’ biology, ecology, changes in population size, and geographic range. Then we can protect species that fall into IUCN Red List threatened categories by developing and implementing conservation action plans.
We need all kinds of action!
The day after I returned to Boston, I happened upon an Extinction Rebellion demonstration using lie-downs, art, and music to highlight the ongoing biological annihilation of wildlife and explaining that globally species are going extinct at rates up to 1,000 times the background rates typical of Earth’s past.
A great reminder that we’ll need many different approaches – including science – to ensure the rich heritage of Earth’s biodiversity gets passed on to future generations!
Your can read the full Abu Dhabi Call for Global Species Conservation Action here.