facebook linkedin twitter

The World Needs a Standard Tool to Compare Species Conservation Efforts. An International Team Just Built One.
The STAR metric shows how much a given action can prevent biodiversity loss. The higher the score, the higher the potential to reduce extinctions.

May 18, 2021 by Anthropocene

This article is by Berly McCoy and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine.

In 2010, the Convention on Biodiversity proposed a list of 20 targets aimed at preserving global biodiversity—from increasing public awareness to preventing species extinctions. The targets were part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020. But of the 20, none were achieved by the deadline. To meet the forthcoming 2021-2030 iteration of the targets, authors of a recent study in Nature Ecology & Evolution have proposed a tool that assigns value to extinction prevention efforts in the hopes that governments, communities and private interest groups can work together to protect biodiversity. 

The tool—called the Species Threat Abatement and Restoration, or STAR, metric—determines how much a given action can help reduce a species’ extinction risks. To build the tool, the team of more than eighty international researchers compiled publicly available data on extinction risk categories for amphibians, birds and mammals as well as the actions threatening their existence, for example, logging and hunting. Then, the team scored countries on the potential for biodiversity mitigation action. The higher the score, the higher the potential to reduce extinctions. The tool is the first of it’s kind to provide a common measurement across species for how contributions from governments, local communities or private sector groups can prevent biodiversity loss.

The research team first calculated STAR scores based on the types of threats species face. They found that a range of activities could drive substantial reductions in extinctions. But two activities made up 40 percent of the global STAR score: crop production accounted for 24.5 percent and logging and wood harvesting accounted for 16.4 percent. Other threats included the presence of invasive and problematic species, ranching and farming, and residential and commercial development. 

In addition to assessing threats, the STAR metric measured the value of habitat restoration as a means of halting and reversing biodiversity loss at the landscape level. In one example researchers applied the metric to an 88,000 hectare region in Indonesia. They found that nearly half of the STAR score could be eliminated through habitat restoration, a number similar to global scale values. 

Threat mitigation and habitat restoration opportunities were scattered across the globe, but some areas held higher scores than others. Although key biodiversity areas cover about 9 percent of Earth’s land, they held 47 percent of the global STAR score for vertebrates. Unsurprisingly, countries with biodiversity hotspots had higher scores. Just five countries contribute more than 30 percent of the global STAR score, while 88 countries contribute less than one percent. 

But the authors warn these disproportionate STAR scores shouldn’t be used to point fingers, partially because biodiversity losses are often caused by events outside a country’s borders, like market forces, infectious disease and climate change. “Our analysis shows that threats to species are omnipresent, and that action to stem the loss of life on Earth must happen in all countries without exception,” said lead study author Louise Mair in a press release

The framework will be available for use this year with plans for continual updates, such as adding more species and improving animal movement data. As data on species and threats improves, so will the scope and accuracy of STAR. 

A common metric to align science-based biodiversity has the power to help civic, private and public groups work together to understand what actions will have the biggest impact toward preserving biodiversity in their regions.


Anthropocene magazine, published by Future Earth,  gathers the worlds’ best minds to explore how we might create a Human Age that we actually want to live in. 

Berly McCoy is a freelance science writer and media producer based in Northwest Montana covering biology, chemistry, food and the environment. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, PBS NewsHour, NPR, Hakai and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter at @travlinscientst.


Mair, L. et al. A metric for spatially explicit contributions to science-based species targetsNature Ecology & Evolution, 2021.

A+
a-

Environment

EPA Head Tours Embattled Communities, Says Help On the Way

RESERVE, La. (AP) — Michael Coleman's house is the last one standing on his tiny street, squeezed between a sprawling... Read More

RESERVE, La. (AP) — Michael Coleman's house is the last one standing on his tiny street, squeezed between a sprawling oil refinery whose sounds and smells keep him up at night and a massive grain elevator that covers his pickup in dust and, he says, exacerbates... Read More

November 24, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
Supreme Court Sides With Tennessee in Dispute Over Aquifer Water Rights

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Tennessee and Mississippi must limit their use of water from... Read More

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Tennessee and Mississippi must limit their use of water from an underground aquifer to give each other a chance at it. The ruling takes on added significance as global warming makes water rights a touchier subject... Read More

November 24, 2021
by Dan McCue
Study Finds Significant Bipartisan Support for Corporate Social Responsibility

WASHINGTON — A new, groundbreaking study suggests not only is there strong bipartisan support for corporate efforts to address environmental,... Read More

WASHINGTON — A new, groundbreaking study suggests not only is there strong bipartisan support for corporate efforts to address environmental, social and governance challenges, but that the bipartisan appeal of these initiatives dramatically increases among Americans under the age of 45. The study, “Unlocking the Bipartisan... Read More

November 23, 2021
by Kate Michael
German Ambassador On COP26: ‘Ample Reason To Be Satisfied.’

WASHINGTON — Representatives from more than 100 countries recently gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate conference in an... Read More

WASHINGTON — Representatives from more than 100 countries recently gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate conference in an effort to pledge commitments and action against climate change, especially actions to prevent temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, which would unleash severe climate change... Read More

November 23, 2021
by Reece Nations
Democrats' Methane Fee Proposal Faces Uncertainty in Senate

WASHINGTON — House Democrats succeeded in including a proposed fee on methane emissions in the Build Back Better Act, but... Read More

WASHINGTON — House Democrats succeeded in including a proposed fee on methane emissions in the Build Back Better Act, but the measure will have to endure scrutiny from centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., before it becomes law. The Democrats' framework for the Build Back Better Act... Read More

House Moves Toward OK of Dems' Sweeping Social, Climate Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats brushed aside months-long divisions and approached House passage of their expansive social and environment bill Friday,... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats brushed aside months-long divisions and approached House passage of their expansive social and environment bill Friday, as President Joe Biden and his party neared a defining win in their drive to use their control of government to funnel its resources toward their... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top