16 Nov 2018 Press release Ecosystems

Global assessment shows hundreds of species face extinction without immediate action

16 November 2018 – Ahead of the upcoming United Nations Biodiversity Summit to be held in Egypt, 17-29 November, a major assessment by the international Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) – the global conservation partnership that works to identify, map and safeguard sites holding the only known locations of highly threatened species – finds that nearly half of these irreplaceable sites are currently unprotected, but that with concerted action, hundreds of extinctions can be prevented.

This new analysis which is the culmination of a three-year effort led by BirdLife International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) falls under a wider project, led by BirdLife and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The analysis mapped the ranges of 1,483 highly threatened species known only to occur in a single site. To qualify for AZE status, a site must be the last known location of an Endangered or Critically Endangered species – the two highest extinction threat categories on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Alongside its efforts in Chile, the Alliance for Zero Extinction project team is also working in Brazil and Madagascar. Across all three countries, the project aims to improve the management of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, as well as working with key financial institutions to integrate conservation of threatened species into their environmental safeguard policies

“We now recognise 853 AZE sites – far more of these last refuges for species than previously known. In order to save any species, the number one priority is to protect their habitats, but 43% of these sites lack any formal protection whatsoever” said Dr Ian Burfield, Global Science Coordinator at BirdLife International and lead coordinator of the new AZE site assessment.

“Besides the conservation benefits – preventing the extinction of endangered species – the recognition of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites as ‘key biodiversity areas’ brings a wide range of benefits to local communities,” said UN Environment biodiversity expert Ersin Esen “From protecting water sources, to preserving local biodiversity, mitigating climate change effects and providing cultural and other ecosystem services, these sites have the potential not just to save species, but to improve lives.”



Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

The 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – otherwise known as the UN Biodiversity Summit - will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, 17-29 November 2018.  Parties will be reviewing progress towards the Convention’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which includes 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets to be met by 2020, before considering the process for developing a transformative new post-2020 global biodiversity framework that will ensure nature is at the heart of sustainable development.  

The Alliance for Zero Extinction

The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) comprises 100 non-governmental biodiversity conservation organizations working to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding sites that are the sole remaining habitats of species identified as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

The Global Environment Facility-AZE project

The Alliance for Zero Extinction: Conserving Earth’s Most Irreplaceable Sites for Endangered Biodiversity project is a US$6.7 million Global Environment Facility-backed partnership between UN Environment, BirdLife InternationalAmerican Bird ConservancyIUCN, and the Governments of Brazil, Chile and Madagascar, to halt global extinctions and safeguard the habitats in which endangered species live.

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

For more information, contact:

Nick Greenfield, GEF Communication Coordinator, UN Environment.