News Release

New study finds many of the world’s most threatened species lack evidence of sufficient conservation efforts

Embargoed until 1600 BST on Wednesday 5 June 2024

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Durham University

-With images-

A new study has revealed alarming gaps in the implementation of conservation interventions for thousands of the world's most threatened species.

The research, published in the journal Nature, shows that most terrestrial plant and animal species at risk of extinction from threats like habitat loss, over-exploitation for trade, and invasive species are not receiving the appropriate types of conservation efforts needed to protect them.

The study findings suggest that there is a serious mismatch between the biodiversity crisis we are facing, and the actions being taken to combat it.

The researchers have found insufficient or even no conservation attention for over half of threatened species that they analysed for this study.

The international team of researchers, led by Dr Rebecca Senior of Durham University, examined data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, Map of Life and other sources.

They assessed the extent to which 5,963 threatened terrestrial species are benefiting from habitat protection in reserves, regulations on threatened wildlife trade, invasive species control/eradication programmes, and other key conservation measures.

Disturbingly, they found that only 9% of species threatened by habitat loss have minimally sufficient areas of their habitat represented within protected areas.

Just 24% of species threatened by invasive alien species like rats, cats and fungal diseases are receiving documented control of those problem species.

They also point out that birds receive far more conservation attention than other groups like amphibians and plants.

Commenting on the research findings, lead author Dr Rebecca Senior of Durham University said: “Conservation can and does work, but only if we try. Our findings are so concerning because they highlight that we’re not really trying for most of the species at the greatest risk of extinction.

“If that carries on, there’s little to no hope that these threatened species will recover on their own.

“That means countries around the world would fail to meet their commitments to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, and that has huge ramifications for both people and the ecosystems on which we depend.”

Study co-author Prof David Wilcove of Princeton University said: “It is essential that governments and environmental organisations make a concerted effort to address these deficiencies in conservation attention before it’s too late.

“We’re talking about a sinking ark where there aren’t enough life boats on board and the crew isn’t even sure where those lifeboats are located.”

The researchers did find some positive signs that conservation can work when applied effectively.

Species that were downlisted to lower threat categories on the IUCN Red List between 2006-2020 were more likely to have documented conservation interventions in place compared to those that deteriorated in status.

However, most up listings to higher extinction risk categories occurred despite some efforts being made, suggesting those interventions were insufficient.

Conservation can and does prevent extinctions, but the study results indicate we are headed towards a catastrophic loss of biodiversity if we don't implement more and better conservation measures soon.

Many threatened species appear to be merely neglected with little to no evidence of direct efforts focussed on recovering their populations.

The researchers note some limitations in documenting all conservation efforts but argue the number of seriously neglected threatened species indicates a major deficit in global interventions that must be urgently prioritised and funded, especially in biodiversity-rich developing nations.

They call on all parties to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework to greatly accelerate strategic and well-funded conservation programmes to meet agreed upon goals for limiting extinction rates.


Media Information

Dr Rebecca Senior from Durham University is available for interview and can be contacted on

Alternatively, please contact Durham University Communications Office for interview requests on or +44 (0)191 334 8623.


‘Global shortfalls in documented actions to conserve biodiversity’, (2024), R.A. Senior, R. Bagwyn, D. Leng, A.K. Killion, W. Jetz and D.S. Wilcove, Nature.

An embargoed copy of the paper is available from Durham University Communications Office. Please email


Associated images are available via the following link:

Credit – Tong Mu and Zhikai Liao (as per their respective folders)

About Durham University

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We are a collegiate university committed to inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham and in the world.

We conduct research that improves lives globally and we are ranked as a world top 100 university with an international reputation in research and education (QS World University Rankings 2024).

We are a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive UK universities and we are consistently ranked as a top 10 university in national league tables (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, Guardian University Guide and The Complete University Guide).

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END OF MEDIA RELEASE – issued by Durham University Communications Office.

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