The Species Rainforest Trust Helps to Protect
In order to gauge the impact of Rainforest Trust’s efforts to protect biodiversity and the most at-risk species from extinction, we have worked with experts to overlap the known ranges of all bird, mammal and amphibian species with the very specific areas we have helped to protect or are presently working to protect. The result of this analysis provides a critical metric to assess the positive impacts that our efforts have on the world’s wildlife.
To date, we have helped protect more than 15 million acres of vital habitat, but in the coming years we are looking forward to increasing this total to approximately 31.2 million acres. Although these areas represent only a small fraction of our planet, they will help protect half of all bird species and a significant proportion of all mammals and amphibians. This demonstrates how strategically creating protected areas benefits the vast majority of life on Earth and directly addresses the world’s extinction crisis.
Importantly, a great body of research has indicated that centers of diversity and endemism for birds and amphibians (where our projects are most concentrated) correlate with other groups of lesser-known species such as plants and invertebrates, leading to incredible levels of biodiversity in the areas that we have helped to protect.
Our analysis of the estimated total number of threatened species that Rainforest Trust has helped to protect and is presently working to protect was determined using the following methodology:
The number of threatened species in our analysis includes birds, mammals and amphibians because range data are only readily available for these taxonomic groups. We compared the boundaries of Rainforest Trust-supported protected areas with the range maps of species listed as threatened (i.e., Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We present the number of bird, mammal and amphibian species whose ranges overlap with Rainforest Trust-supported protected areas and therefore potentially occur in the protected areas.
The numbers of birds and mammals are likely to be overestimates. This is because many of the currently available range maps for birds and mammals sometimes encompass large areas of unsuitable habitat. Species do not occur uniformly across the ranges depicted on range maps, and therefore it is possible that some of the species included in our totals do not actually occur in the protected areas.
Conversely, the number of amphibians is likely to be an underestimate. This is mainly due to the fact that the ranges of many amphibian species are poorly understood. Refining these estimates will be a long-term, iterative process that will depend on the availability of refined range maps and field surveys to confirm the presence of species in each of the protected areas. The latter is an especially painstaking process requiring years of field work. In the meantime, the numbers presented here provide a sense of the incredible importance of these protected areas to the conservation of Earth’s biodiversity.
Acknowledgments: Rainforest Trust is grateful to Ana Rodrigues, Senior Researcher, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France) for conducting the initial evaluation of species present in the protected areas created by Rainforest Trust and its partners, and to the volunteers who contributed to the collection and compilation of the IUCN, BirdLife and NatureServe data.
IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. http://www.iucnredlist.org.
BirdLife International and NatureServe. 2015. Bird species distribution maps of the world. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK and NatureServe, Arlington, VA, USA.