Increasing conflicts and social insecurity are expected to accelerate biodiversity decline and escalate illegal wildlife killing, according to research published today in Conservation Letters.
A team of international scientists, including Dr Susan Canney of the University of Oxford, studied regions of the Sahara-Sahel desert and compared the conflicts occurrence data and other threat factors with the distribution of large species, including dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas), addax (Addax nasomaculatus) and African elephant (Loxodonta africana).
Access to remote areas of the Sahara-Sahel desert has improved dramatically over the last century, and as a result the region's megafauna has experienced recent and continuous decline due to unsustainable hunting pressure. Now 12 of the 14 large vertebrates that occur in this region are currently classified as ‘extinct in the wild’ or ‘endangered’.
The study indicates a clear association between conflict in the area and reduced dorcas gazelle and African elephant populations, and a correlation between oil exploitation and addax population decline. Increasing conflicts and social insecurity are expected to accelerate biodiversity decline and escalate illegal wildlife killing.
"The recent increase in armed conflicts emphasizes the need to identify areas where wildlife is declining and to develop effective policies to reduce the impacts of these conflicts on biodiversity," said José Carlos Brito, first author of the article.
Without immediate conservation action, this research indicates that the unique and iconic biodiversity of Earth's largest desert will be forever lost. The paper recommends:
- establishing strong commitments for change in global attitude toward nature
- engraining a culture of environmental responsibility among all stakeholders
- fostering environmental awareness to drive societal change
- reinforcing regional security and firearms control
- implementing local research and wildlife monitoring schemes.