Wildlife conservationists Rikki Gumbs and James Rosindell discuss the huge amounts of evolutionary history that are under threat from human activity during this Reddit AMA – part of Imperial Lates Online: Back to Nature
Evolutionary history is a measure of how genetically distinct a species is. Those with large amounts of unique evolutionary history often have little to no close living relatives. They are often ‘alone’ on their branch of the evolutionary tree of life.
However, this way of categorising species is not just a novel feature of their genetic past. It can determine species’ vulnerability to population loss today, and tell us what their extinction might mean for the ecosystems they inhabit. Also, the greater the diversity of the tree of life, the more it tends to benefit humanity.
As a result, evolutionary history has become a handy tool for conservation prioritisation. Previously unheralded species like Pangolins and Tapirs are being highlighted for protection due to their unique importance to their fragile ecosystems.
But how can we better quantify the tree of life and measure the number of years of evolutionary years threatened by the impact of human activity? In 2007, the “EDGE of Existence” programme was launched to do just this and identify some of the most under-threat species. As part of this programme, our team work on “EDGE lists” to identify key species, and then work with conservationists to implement conservation action.
During this Ask Me Anything session hosted on the R/Environment sub thread, wildlife conservationists Rikki Gumbs and James Rosindell will take the public’s questions on:
- biodiversity loss
- conversation prioritisation
- experiences working in the field and with local communities
- and also, what we all, as individuals, can do to protect these valuable species through our own daily lives and consumer choices.
For a bit more information on Rikki and James’ work, some useful links are below. If you are new to Reddit but keen to take part, here is a useful guide to the site published by Mashable UK
- Homepage of the EDGE of Existence programme – https://www.edgeofexistence.org/
- Recent news story on evolutionary history in conservation from the EDGE of Existence programme – https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/197797/50-billion-years-evolutionary-history-threatened/
- Online explorer for the complete tree of life with threatened species highlighted www.onezoom.org
Imperial Lates Online
This event is part of Imperial Lates Online: Back to Nature. Tune in to explore cutting-edge science and engineering in our week-long digital celebration of science from 27 July to 2 August.
Imperial Lates Online are most suitable for over 18s.
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