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Political instability leads to loss of species: Cambridge research

This is the first time that effectiveness of national governance and levels of socio-political stability have been identified as the most significant global indicator of biodiversity and species loss.

world Updated: Dec 21, 2017 16:46 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
The Cambridge research used the fate of waterbird species since 1990 as a bellwether for broad biodiversity trends.
The Cambridge research used the fate of waterbird species since 1990 as a bellwether for broad biodiversity trends.(Reuters File)

Political instability has several consequences, but new research led by experts from the University of Cambridge suggests that it also leads to loss of species due to weak legal enforcement, unsuitable and illegal killing in protected areas, and depleting biodiversity.

This is the first time that effectiveness of national governance and levels of socio-political stability have been identified as the most significant global indicator of biodiversity and species loss. The research shows that ineffective national governance is a better indicator of species decline than any other measure of “anthropogenic impact”.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

The study of changes in global wildlife over almost three decades has found that low levels of effective national governance are the strongest predictor of declining species numbers – more so than economic growth, climate change or even surges in human population.

Even protected conservation areas make little difference in countries that struggle with socio-political stability, the university said in a release.

The research used the fate of waterbird species since 1990 as a bellwether for broad biodiversity trends, as their wetland habitats are among the most diverse as well as the most endangered on earth.

An international team of scientists and conservation experts led by the University of Cambridge analysed over 2.4 million annual count records of 461 waterbird species across almost 26,000 different survey sites around the world.

The researchers used this giant dataset to model localised species changes in nations and regions. Results were compared to worldwide governance indicators, which measure everything from violence rates and rule of law to political corruption, as well as data such as gross domestic product and conservation performance.

The team discovered that waterbird decline was greater in regions of the world where governance is on average less effective, such as Western and Central Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The healthiest overall species quotas were seen in continental Europe, although even here the levels of key species were found to have nosedived.

The researchers point out that poor water management and dam construction in parts of Asia and South America have caused wetlands to permanently dry out in countries such as Iran and Argentina – even in areas designated as protected.

“Although the global coverage of protected areas continues to increase, our findings suggest that ineffective governance could undermine the benefits of these biodiversity conservation efforts,” said Cambridge’s Tatsuya Amano, who led the study.

“We now know that governance and political stability is a vital consideration when developing future environmental policies and practices.”