Despite growing levels of awareness of the importance of biodiversity, aesthetically pleasing species still receive far more conservation funding than others, a new study has shown. Invertebrate species often perform vital functions in ecosystems but receive 500 times less the amount of conservation funding than vertebrates do.
The big funding receivers in the EU for conservation purposes tend to be wolves, Brown bears, bitterns, and Eurasian lynxes. Those four species alone receive the same amount of funding as invertebrates do.
“The data was amazing in terms of how much bears, wolves, and a few birds got in terms of funding,” said Stefano Mammola, a cave ecologist at the Italian National Research Council. “The bias operates at different levels within mammals – you have a few species that get everything. There is only one spider included in the Habitats Directive, a few crustaceans, and not a single parasite.”
Mammola’s team researched funding given out through the EU’s Life Program from 1992 to 2018. In the end, funding appears to still favor the “cute” animals, even as knowledge about the importance of biodiversity has expanded.
“We should have reached a point, in my opinion, where we do not have to explain why protecting biodiversity is important,” Mammola continued. “I see the point of attracting people using charismatic species, I’m not denying that, but I think there are also lots of charismatic species in the invertebrate world. We need to change the perception of what’s charismatic and illustrate the larger diversity of what’s there.”
The level of threat a species faces does not seem to influence funding either, with Brown Bears and Grey Wolves being listed as “of least concern” in the IUCN red list, but still receiving more funding than threatened invertebrate species.
Prof Michael Samways, an entomologist from Stellenbosch University, believes this study illustrates that biodiversity is not just about vertebrates.
“As human beings, we naturally gravitate to the feathery and the furry. This paper gets to the heart of this issue – biodiversity is not just vertebrates, it’s about invertebrates, and of course it’s about all the microorganisms as well as the fungi and so on. It’s really about making sure we can save life in its entirety,” he said.
This article by Ian Carey was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 15 August 2022. Lead Image Source : Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.
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