Biodiversity loss is more serious than previously thought, Belfast study finds

23 May 2023

The red-striped poison dart frog is vulnerable to habitat loss and climate change. Image: © kikkerdirk/

Nearly half of all species are under threat according to the global study on biodiversity.

The impact of industrialisation and human behaviour on biodiversity is much more extreme than science previously acknowledged, with 48pc of species declining towards extinction.

This statistic was discovered as part of a study that was carried out by researchers at Queens University Belfast, PhD candidate Catherine Finn and Dr Daniel Pincheira-Donoso from the School of Biological Sciences. The research was co-led by Dr Florencia Grattarola from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague.

Instead of using the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) threat conservation categories as a measurement, the researchers performed a global-scale analysis of biodiversity loss based on population trends.

They looked at changes in the population densities of more than 70,000 species. They found that almost half of species are shrinking in population size, whereas the IUCN had found that 28pc of life on earth is threatened with extinction. One third of the species currently considered safe by the IUCN conservation categories are declining towards risk of extinction.

The Belfast study also found that only 3pc of species are thriving enough to increase in population size.

Their research paper was published in the scientific journal Biological Reviews today (23 May).

“This new study method and global-scale analysis provides a clearer picture about the true extent of global erosion of biodiversity that the traditional approach cannot offer,” said Pincheira-Donoso.

“Our work is a drastic alert about the current magnitude of this crisis that has already devastating impacts on the stability of nature as a whole, and on human health and wellbeing.”

Finn, leading author of the study, warned that “Almost half of animals on Earth for which assessments are available are currently declining. To make matters worse, many of the animal species that are thought to be non-threatened from extinction, are in fact progressively declining.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic