MALAGA, Spain, Sept. 15 (UPI) — New research suggests one in six of 320 Mediterranean mammals is threatened with extinction at a regional level.
The assessment, which excluded whales and dolphins, was conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Researchers found 3 percent of the mammals are critically endangered, 5 percent are endangered, 8 percent are vulnerable, another 8 percent are near threatened and 3 percent are extinct or regionally extinct.
Scientists said the study marks the first time all Mediterranean mammals have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
“The number-one threat is habitat destruction, which affects 90 percent of the threatened species,” Annabelle Cuttelod, co-author of the report, said. “We need international action to protect key areas and preserve natural habitats to ensure we don’t lose the rich biodiversity in this area.”
She said rodents, bats, shrews, hedgehogs and moles, which make up the majority of Mediterranean mammals, are finding it increasingly hard to survive due to habitat loss and degradation from agriculture, pollution, climate change and urbanization.
Large herbivores — such as deer, carnivores, rabbits and hares — are particularly threatened, Cuttelod said. Eight species from those groups have already become extinct in the Mediterranean region.
Of the 49 threatened mammalian species, 20 are unique to the region and found nowhere else in the world, the IUCN said.
The report, co-authored by Helen Temple, is available at http://www.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2009-027.pdf.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International