Endemic Island Grasshoppers highly threatened

08 April 2013 | Article

During the 2012 IUCN Red List updates, IUCN Red List assessments of all endemic grasshoppers, crickets and bush-crickets (Orthoptera) of the Canary Islands and the Seychelles have been published. These assessments provide valuable information about the status of these insects and their threats.

Orthoptera are not only known for their diverse songs, providing aesthetic pleasure, they also play an important role as food for many endangered birds, lizards and mammals. Moreover, they are important indicators of land use change and many species occur only in very small geographic ranges, serving as indicators for biodiversity hotspots.

The recent assessments show that island-endemic Orthoptera are highly threatened: 41% of the 34 species endemic to the Canary Islands and even 70% of the 37 Seychelles endemics are listed on one of the IUCN Red List categories. However the threats to both island faunas vary considerably. Grasshoppers, crickets and bush-crickets on the Seychelles are mainly threatened by invasions of non-native plants in forest habitats and by climate change, particularly the rising sea levels that affect species which are confined to coastal habitats. By contrast, the Orthoptera endemic to coastal habitats of the Canary Islands are mainly threatened by the touristic and industrial development (such as the La Palma Stick Grasshopper or the Tenerife Sand Grasshopper), while montane species are threatened by the increasing wildfire frequencies.

During the next year, two new projects of the IUCN/SSC Grasshopper Specialist Group are aiming at collecting more information on some highly threatened insect species. One aim is to rediscover two endemic species which have not been found since several decades, the Gran Canaria Bush-Cricket (Evergoderes cabrerai) and the Short-Winged Seychelles Groundhopper (Procytettix fusiformis). Another aim is to study the habitat preferences of these and other threatened species in order to develop suitable conservation measures.