Species Survival Commission unveils initiatives to boost the fight against species extinctions

11 October 2000 | News story

Amman, Jordan 11.10.2000 (IUCN). Development of the most current and comprehensive information service about the status of plants and animals worldwide is underway to more effectively combat the escalating global species extinction crisis.

The ground-breaking Species Information Service (SIS) is being launched by the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN - The World Conservation Union.

The SIS was unveiled at the recent World Conservation Congress in Jordan in conjunction with the announcement of a new $10-million Joint Venture of IUCN's Red List Programme, which will expand biodiversity assessments necessary for active steps to combat species loss. The Red List is a key component of the SIS.

Last month, the Italian Ministry of the Environment contributed $200,000 toward SIS, and the Centre for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International is providing $250,000 for the Red List Programme Joint Venture.

The 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, recently released by the SSC, confirmed that the species extinction crisis is as bad or worse than the scientific community previously suspected.

The Red List Programme Joint Venture and the Species Information Service will enhance the ability of conservationists to confront threats to species before they escalate to extinction crises. Joint Venture partners include the SSC, BirdLife International, Conservation International, the Centre for Marine Conservation and the Association for Biodiversity Information.

"There is an urgent need to collaborate if we are going to overcome the global extinction crisis, and through the Joint Venture we will greatly enhance our collective efforts in biodiversity assessment by moving the Red List Programme to a new level of activity," says Russell A. Mittermeier, Chair of the SSC Primate Specialist Group and President of the U.S.-based Conservation International.

"We know that the Red List is the tip of the iceberg of the global biodiversity crisis, revealing to us the first species that are likely to be lost. The only way we can accurately assess the status of species is if we have adequate information, and the new Species Information Service will provide this quickly, efficiently and effectively," he adds.

"Previously, we have not been able to identify problems fast enough, or if we knew of problems, we didn't have adequate information to take immediate action. With SIS, we will be able to see the beginning of species declines, we will be able to monitor their status, identify trends and be proactive," explains Andrew Smith, co-chair of the SSC Data Management Working Group and Professor of Biology at Arizona State University.

"Another distinction of the SIS is that most other biodiversity databases are based on museum collections, whereas this new service is based on living biodiversity. And it contains the species data, as opposed to being a metadatabase, which simply links databases," he adds.

Powerful and unique features of SIS include the currency of its data and its analytical capacities that will provide information at a variety of levels and for multiple purposes.

For example, users will be able to find out the number of species in a country, identify threats, and conservation actions in place, to determine what further action is needed.

The SIS will also make information readily accessible to policy-makers and establish links among diverse groups. It allows for analyses at different geographical scales, and is adaptable to each user's needs.

Some 7,000 scientists, researchers and conservation specialists, working in almost every country in the world, are volunteer members of the Species Survival Commission. These scientists will provide the data for the SIS. In turn, scientists in the SSC network will benefit from value-added data and information from the SIS that will improve their ability to work at the local level.

For more information contact: Anna Knee, SSC Communications Officer Tel: 41 22 9990153, Email alk@iucn.org