WE may be at risk of losing our natural treasures before even getting a chance to truly appreciate them. According to an analysis conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, many more species may be at risk of extinction than those already listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, which tracks threatened species and helps raise awareness regarding their plight. Many of these ‘off-the-radar’ species live in the same regions and face threats similar to those faced by species that have been listed by the IUCN as endangered. These include changing climate conditions, human encroachment on their habitats, use of dangerous pesticides, and threats from other species, among others. However, since data on their numbers and population trends are scant, we do not exactly know how long they have before they completely disappear from our planet. The machine-learning analysis conducted by the Norwegian university suggests that more than half of such species may not have much longer.
In a country like Pakistan — which is only just starting to wake up to the breathtaking diversity of its natural endowments — the findings of the analysis are unlikely to cause much of a stir, except perhaps in the small community of enthusiasts, scientists and researchers studying biodiversity in the country. This is a shame, as we may very likely be at risk of losing fascinating organisms — plants, animals and fungi — without ever getting a chance to study and learn more about them. Unfortunately, given the limited resources, both human and material, that we have, we may never be able to fully uncover the many wonders hiding in the nooks and crannies of the country — from the vast mountains in the north down to the warm seas in the south. Schools have started holding tree plantation drives to educate children about our changing world. One hopes that our children will soon also be pushed to develop a healthy curiosity about Pakistan’s flora and fauna and develop an interest in exploring and documenting it.
Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2022