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Biodiversity Education & the Anthropocene: An Indicator of Extinction or Recovery


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The importance of extant biodiversity, concerns regarding the rising Anthropocene extinction rates, and commitments made by signatories to biodiversity conventions each increase demands for timely data. However, as species and conservation indicators become more complex, the less accessible they are to educators. New pedagogies are needed so that students can generate their own data for studies of biodiversity and extinction. I present a simple indicator of species diversity that examines declines in species’ populations and whether or not these species subsequently recovered or faced extinction. Using such data, 14 threatened species are used as examples of the time taken for each species to reach a point of either recovery or extinction. The learning and pedagogical context for this information is reviewed, student use of the data demonstrated, and the lesson evaluated according to its learning objectives.
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The importance of extant biodiversity, concerns regarding the rising
Anthropocene extinction rates, and commitments made by signatories to
biodiversity conventions each increase demands for timely data. However, as
species and conservation indicators become more complex, the less accessible
they are to educators. New pedagogies are needed so that students can
generate their own data for studies of biodiversity and extinction. I present a
simple indicator of species diversity that examines declines in species
populations and whether or not these species subsequently recovered or faced
extinction. Using such data, 14 threatened species are used as examples of
the time taken for each species to reach a point of either recovery or
extinction. The learning and pedagogical context for this information is
reviewed, student use of the data demonstrated, and the lesson evaluated
according to its learning objectives.
Key Words: Biodiversity; education; NGSS; Anthropocene; species diversity;
extinction; recovery; lesson plan and pedagogy; ASEI biodiversity indicator;
Endangered Species Day.
Since the 1980s, evidence and explanations
have mounted regarding increased extinc-
tion levels in what has been named the
Anthropocene epoch (Crutzen, 2002) or
the next major extinction event of the Phan-
erozoic eon. Either way, this increase, also
referred to as the sixth extinction,differs
from the previous five macro-extinction
events, in that sixth-extinction losses are
caused by the presence and exponential
population growth of Homo sapiens. This
current extinction event has catalyzed new research and publica-
tions; however, proven pedagogy (i.e., the process of imparting
and questioning knowledge in a classroom) lags far behind.
This is why educators, who have resources for teaching and
querying the first five extinctions, must reach beyond this material
to convey how human-related extinctions affect biodiversity. How-
ever, in searching for such information, little published literature
on biodiversity education and assessment is to be found (Navarro-
Perez & Tidball, 2012). To improve this situation, lessons are
needed that allow for student-centered research, data collection,
and evidence-gathering regarding species loss during the Anthropo-
cene. Such a shift toward student-centered understanding and con-
sensus-building versus acquiring facts alone has proved successful
through the use of models in cellular biology (Cohen, 2014).
During lesson planning, further complications arise from the
complexity of biodiversity concepts, definitions, and content to
select among. Teachers can become confused when juggling interna-
tional or political terminology with scientific approaches (Dreyfus
et al., 1999). For many teachers, a lack of familiarity with evolution
(a springboard for discussing biodiversity) and/or a lack of confi-
dence in their own professional understanding
of the subject also creates hesitancy or reluctance
in teaching it (Mervis, 2015). Adding complex
measurements of biodiversity that teachers cannot
fully develop, manipulate, or have time to explain
and utilize would place additional burdens on
these teachers.
In addition, lessons covering the sixth extinc-
tion must often be fit into a biology curriculum with
established objectives, standards, and alternative
lessons vying for inclusion. I have taught this biodi-
versity lesson within a unit on evolution in seventh-
grade biology and as a graduate-level course for
Naturalist Society of Woodend, Maryland.
Having enough data, theory, or measure-
ments of diversity available to create new content is not the problem.
Instead, it is precisely this pool of information that presents a conun-
drum to educators. Biodiversity indicators are increasing in quantity,
Since the 1980s,
evidence and
explanations have
mounted regarding
increased extinction
levels in what has
been named the
Anthropocene epoch.
The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 78, No 4, pages. 293299, ISSN 0002-7685, electronic ISSN 1938-4211. ©2016 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights
reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Presss Reprints and Permissions web page, DOI: 10.1525/abt.2016.78.4.293.
FEATURE ARTICLE Biodiversity Education & the
Anthropocene: An Indicator of
Extinction or Recovery
focus, and measurements (Duelli & Obrist, 2003; http://jncc.;
dicatordevelopment/indicatordevelopmentframework; http://old.unep- as a result of demands by
international organizations for more timely and precise information
(Waldron et al., 2013; Pimm et al., 2014).
Because of the increasing complexity and level of detail, I have
found these resources impractical for educational purposes. Here,
I suggest new pedagogies to help students use accessible data and
generate their own studies of biodiversity and extinction, which
will increase their awareness of declines in species diversity. To
help educators scaffold a manageable approach, I set out to for-
mulate a biodiversity lesson that incorporates a deliberately sim-
plified indicator of Anthropocene events and whether or not a
species became extinct or, after a call to action, was able to
recover, either in the wild or in captivity. This indicator of species
diversity, the Anthropocene Species Event Indicator (ASEI; sug-
gested pronunciation: ahh-see), along with the data needed for
its calculation, presents an immediate resource that students can
use in secondary, university, and adult learner communities, as
well as providing opportunities for student or graduate-level
To test the utility of the ASEI, data were collected for 14 species
under threat of extinction due to human-caused events. Some of
these data, plus data produced by students, were then used in
lesson pedagogy. Animal species and taxonomic classes selected
for this article are illustrative; others could be substituted, based
on the region or species of interest. The species data allow students
to compare their results with trends of species decline documented
by other authors, other indicators, and from research describing
biodiversity distribution (Dirzo & Raven, 2003).
In addition, the Red List of Threatened Species, produced by the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), was
used to categorize these species, based on information regarding
the global conservation status of animals, fungi, and plants. Animal
rather than plant species were selected because students have more
background knowledge and personal contact with animals.
Learning Outcomes
In conjunction with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS;
see next section), the proposed activity includes the following
learning goals for students:
1. Compose a letter to family explaining what biodiversity is
and how humans affect endangered species.
2. Complete a 15-species organizer for Black Rock Reptiles pre-
sentation, noting conservation concerns such as habitat loss
and urbanization.
3. Analyze and compare ASEI data for six endangered or extinct
animals and develop a report or poster comparing one spe-
cies to the other five species.
4. Complete a before/after survey on biodiversity, ethical per-
spectives, and the impact of the current lesson (Cohen, 2015).
5. Answer assessment questions on biodiversity and the
Anthropocene extinction as part of a test on evolution.
Lesson Correlation with the Next
Generation Science Standards
In the case of secondary education, the NGSS embraced a focus
on biodiversity through its Core Idea LS2 (Ecosystems: Interac-
tions, Energy, and Dynamics; NGSS Lead States, 2013). As an
example, the NGSS performance expectation MS-LS2-5 calls for
students to be able to evaluate competing design solutions for
maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. Learning objec-
tives described previously, their relation to NGSS standards,
and use of ASEI data are connected in lesson format in Table 1.
Together, these lesson connections offer a new way to combat
the lack of educational exposure to biodiversity that is of concern
to many, while advancing its study in biology curriculums (Wilson,
2006, p. 130).
In this paper, the most important learning standard is LS4.D:
Biodiversity and Humans. Its focus question is What is biodiver-
sity, how do humans affect it, and how does it affect humans?This
serves as the central question for this lesson as well.
Lesson Context
Addressing learning outcomes using ASEI data was tested in a
course on biodiversity for adults and graduates at the Audubon
Naturalist Society, Woodend, Maryland, held under the auspices
of the Graduate School USA, Washington, D.C. It was also used
during a course in biology for seventh graders at a Maryland mid-
dle school. For the second venue, the lesson on biodiversity coin-
cided with National Endangered Species Day (http://action.
Students populated the database with species information
using dates from as early as the 1600s, often concluding in
2015. The dates they entered established when an endangered
or extinct species was first described or encountered, and
extended to its eventual extinction or recovery. Species selected
for study were finalized by ensuring that all requisite data could
be found and verified for accuracy and consistency, and that they
were focused on sixth extinctionevents. In this way, the indica-
tors provide, even in one lesson, an ability to communicate the
impact of human choice on biodiversity (the relations among
the various data points used for ASEI calculations are diagrammed
in Figure 1).
In addition, to augment the biodiversity lesson with hands-on
learning, a partnership was developed with Black Rock Reptiles, a
conservation/educational breeding center for animals (http://www. Two of the species used in the
studentsstudies, the Woma python and African spurred tortoise,
were among the animals brought to my classroom for students to
examine, hold, photograph, and touch.
While showing the animals, the breeders inform the students of
each speciesconservation status, and how urbanization and habitat
destruction put certain species at risk. The students take notes on a
species organizer, capturing information to be used later in the les-
son (Cohen, 2015). This information highlights the various levels
of endangerment and helps students understand the importance
of conservation and protection.
Table 1. Aligning NGSS standards or performance expectations with proposed lesson objectives,
data required or prepared by students, and approximate classroom required for each objective.
NGSS: Relevant
Performance Expectations
or Disciplinary Core Idea
Lesson Number & Learning
Data or Activity Conducted
by Students
Approximate Classroom
Time Required
2-LS4-1. Make observations
of plants and animals to
compare the diversity of life
in different habitats.
2. Complete 15-species
organizer based on Black
Rock Reptile presentation
Observations made by
students, as shown in Figure 3
One class period plus half
period for follow-up
discussion and comparison
of notes
LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans
There are many differentkinds
of living things in any area,
and they exist in different
places on land and in water.
(Disciplinary Core Idea)
3. Analyze and compare ASEI
data for six endangered or
extinct species
Use of books (Table 2) and
other information links for
species by environment
Two class periods, in room
with suggested reference
books (Table 2) and
computers set on relevant
web pages
LS4.D: Biodiversity and
Humans depend on the
living world for the resources
and other benefits provided
by biodiversity. But human
activity is also having
adverse impacts on
biodiversity through
overexploitation, habitat
destruction, pollution,
introduction of invasive
species, and climate change.
1. Compose short letter to
family explaining what
biodiversity is and how
humans affect
endangered species
4. Complete a before/after
survey on biodiversity,
ethical perspectives and
impact of current lesson
on student perspectives
Based on lessons learned
from Black Reptile
Presentation and notes as
shown in Figure 2
One period
HS-LS2-2. Performance
expectation: Use
representations to support
and revise explanations
based on evidence about
factors affecting biodiversity
and populations in
ecosystems of different
scales. [Clarification
statement: Examples of
representations include
finding the average,
determining trends, and
using graphical comparisons
of multiple sets of data.]
3. Analyze and compare ASEI
data for six endangered or
extinct species
ASEI data compiled for
specific species as selected
by students, with agreement
by teacher
One period
HS-LS4-6. Biological
Evolution: Unity and
Diversity. Create or revise a
simulation to test a solution
to mitigate adverse impacts
of human activity on
3. Analyze and compare ASEI
data for six endangered or
extinct species, and
prepare simulations for
endangered species
Use of ASEI data to prepare
simulations or projections on
potential recovery of
selected endangered species
Extra time needed for this
extension of the lesson
Implementing the Lesson Using
the ASEI
Collecting Information
The ASEI relies on diverse references to obtain data points in order
to cross-check points of human intervention. In addition to journal
publications, I provided reference books and texts for student use
and to judge student engagement in the selection of their species
of choice (Table 2). Indicator values for a given species are com-
puted by comparing the following intervals:
CD: D is the year the species was first described (either for-
mally or informally) that is, the year in which the species was
recognized, taxonomically described by colonists or nonindige-
nous peoples, or recorded in other printed records of human
encounters with the species. This period extends to a point of
concern (C), indicating the year in which a population decline
was first documented. By marking this point of decline, the
value for C leads to a third date, at which the species has been
eliminated or saved by explorers and settlers. Thus, the value
for C D represents the time between recognition and when
the population decline became noteworthy.
RCorEC: This span of years represents the time between
the first concern noted over a decline in population numbers
and an eventual outcome from this decline, using C to mark
the point of concern as described above, and E or R to mark
the year when the species was either doomed to extinction or
had recovered. If the recovery is limited, then the most recent
figures available are given as to its present population status.
I made a student version of the ASEI data sheet available in Excel.
With some guidance and data verification by me, the students
were able to enter information for six species of their choice.
Analysis of ASEI Data Input by Instructor
To provide an example for students of how the ASEI is populated,
data for 14 species were entered and labeled according to four
IUCN Red List categories ( extinct (ex),
critically endangered (cr), endangered (en), or of least concern (lc).
These data demarcate, in specific years, what happens when a species
path intersects that of Homo sapiens. Species data are focused on two
intervals: the time taken until a decline in a species population has
occurred, and the subsequent time needed for a species to reach
recovery or extinction. When the ASEI indicator value is low, the time
taken to reach both intervals is essentially the same, avoiding the
extensive time seen in other species to recognize a declining popula-
tion in the wild (Figure 2).
When the indices are high, it means that the difference between
intervals is large. For example, the values for the African spurred tor-
toise show a lengthy C D value and a very short period from concern
to approaching recovery. Second, the species data can be sorted by
years required from C to D, which reveals a range of 25 to 365 years
from description to concerns of a population decline. The thousands
of unique genes harbored by such species mean that the more species
saved (such as those in Figure 2 for which restoration has begun), the
more unique genes are conserved. Given the importance of genetic
diversity (as I discuss in the previous unit in class on heredity and
inheritance), can we afford not to bring such calculations of Anthro-
pocene extinctions and recoveries into the classroom?
Analysis of Student-Provided Data Using the ASEI
Two examples of student work using the ASEI are presented in
Figure 3. The examples are taken from two students in the Bio-
diversity course offered through the Audubon Naturalist Society
of Maryland and the Graduate School USA. Both students used
the ASEI successfully in locating species of interest, inputting data,
and deriving their own conclusions. Their successful input and use
of the data indicate that students as well as instructors can find this
analysis doable and valuable. It also puts the educator and student
in control of data assembly and entry, allowing individuals to build
the database to address their own interests rather than relying on
global biodiversity indicators, which cannot be manipulated easily
for classroom research. These two examples were also used for sub-
sequent presentations to the class on their species of interest.
Following successful completion of the ASEI, students can be
offered a series of follow-up questions to extend their knowledge.
Instead of requiring all students to do one or another, giving stu-
dents a choice in this matter will stimulate, rather than contract,
subsequent class discussion. Extension questions to prompt further
discussion, research, or open-ended responses using ASEI calcula-
tions include the following:
(1) Why has recovery taken a longer or shorter time for one
species than for other species?
(2) What might idealvalues and indices look like for species
(3) What Anthropocene events may have caused the values
cited to compute the final indicator?
(4) Are there ways to speed up awareness when a species nears
the point of concern, and would that have an effect on the
number of years to recovery?
(5) Why has extinction occurred for some species, but not for
others with comparable indices?
(6) What criteria could be used to prioritize conservation?
(7) What would ASEI look like when grouping species belong-
ing to megadiversity hotspots?
(8) What similarities or differences in values do you obtain when
comparing your species of choice to that of another student?
Figure 1. Relations of four values (in years) describing the fate
of an endangered species, as used with the ASEI.
Table 2. Books used to engage students in their own selection of endangered or extinct species,
and to provide data and information to analyze with the ASEI.
Title Author Publisher and Year
Endangered Species
Volume 1: Mammals
Volume 2: Arachnids, Birds, Crustaceans, Insects, and Mollusks
Volume 3: Amphibians, Fish, Plants, and Reptiles
Rob Nagel UXL, 19981999
Endangered Animals: Species Facing Extinction and the Threats
to Their Habitats
Willi Dolder and Ursula
Parragon, 2009
Endangered: Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction George C. McGavin Firefly Books, 2006
The Atlas of Endangered Species Richard Mackay University of California Press,
Extinct Animals: An Encyclopedia of Species That Have
Disappeared during Human History
Ross Piper Greenwood Press, 2009
A Gap in Nature: Discovering the Worlds Extinct Animals Tim Flannery and Peter
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001
Dinosaurs to Dodos: An Encyclopedia of Extinct Animals Don Lessem Scholastic Reference, 1999
How to Clone a Mammal: The Science of De-Extinction Beth Shapiro Princeton University Press, 2015
Ivory Crisis Ian Parker and Mohamed
Chatto and Windus, 1983
Figure 2. Fourteen species, listed by IUCN category and by ASEI values for years taken to reach either extinction or recovery.
Equally important as (or perhaps more important than) the data are
opportunities for student engagement and the indicesrole in an
inquiry-based pedagogy. While the species-specific data required
are not always easy to come by and, in fact, can be quite challeng-
ing to find and verify with a careful selection of doablespecies,
the activity can be readily taken on by students of all ages. Such
questions, along with access to data for the ASEI, can be incorpo-
rated into a lesson developed with species-specific or location-
specific case studies (Potter et al., 1993) by launching investigations
in which students adopt a species, compute
its indicator, compare it to other species,
and answer one or more of the above
Extension of lessons on the species diver-
sity concept can be merged with habitat,
ecosystem, or environmental information to
develop a more complete story of the species
current state of endangerment. Such books as
The Atlas of Endangered Species (Table 2) can
help students address these interests.
This article presents a deliberately simpli-
fied indicator for species diversity as one
means to engage students in understanding
the consequences of Anthropocene events.
The status of each species, as to whether it
enters recovery or ends in extinction, is
something each student creates. Once the
indicator is populated, it can be annotated
by students by adding other interests, such
as actions leading toward or away from
recovery. One variable would be time (in
years), while secondary variables could
include funding obligations, major actors
(local, regional, and international), roles of
multilateral conventions, ecological signifi-
cance of the species, or what happens if
the species disappears.
Many endangered species have been
adoptedby conservation organizations
seeking an organisms protection. This
information, available on most organiza-
tional websites, would allow students to
analyze conservation options for the spe-
cies listed in their ASEI data, leading some
to more direct involvement with a species
protection. It has not escaped attention
that ASEI indicator values could even be
used by such conservation organizations
for mobilizing resources. Using the indica-
tor would allow conservationists to explain
and react to the timelines presented and, as
such, build relations with students who
will be the face of future conservation
efforts and support, thus increasing chan-
ces for timely conservation. ASEI also presents options to promote
specific educational links and actions among conservation organi-
zations in the classroom. Special projects could be envisioned with
names such as Adopt a Species,”“Beat the Clock,”“I Dare You to
Survive,”“Not This One,or There Is Still Time.
But what else is needed? The pedagogy and database described
could help build a cadre of educated youths, graduate students,
and others to form a new constituency for conservation. From
my classroom experience, there is a more-than-ample base of inter-
est for such lessons. While new students may not be able to help
save the Vaquita porpoise (Figure 2), given its imminent extinction,
Figure 3. Examples of student-generated data using the ASEI in an Audubon
Biodiversity class.
they will certainly be making decisions regarding species with
longer time-frames for recovery. Nor should educators ignore their
responsibility to teach future generations of the Anthropocene
epoch and species extinctions, as teachers can use such lessons to
help students consider whether our growing population and use
of resources will continue unabated or be brought under control.
I am grateful to Dr. Sy Sohmer, retired director of the Botanical
Research Institute of Texas, for his support and suggestions during
the articles preparation, to the students of the Audubon Naturalist
Society course Biodiversity,and to Dr. Peter Raven for review and
encouragement. There was no funding designated for the required
research or results. There is no conflict of interest to note, and no
hindrances due to MTAs, patents, or patent applications that apply
to data used in this paper. Cited student work is available anony-
mously through institutional instructional waivers.
Cohen, J.I. (2014). A cellular encounter: constructing the cell as a whole
system using illustrative models. American Biology Teacher, 76, 544549.
Cohen, J.I. (2015). Ethical values and biological diversity: a preliminary assessment
approach. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 15, 224226.
Crutzen, P.J. (2002). Geology of mankind. Nature, 415, 23.
Dirzo, R. & Raven, P.H. (2003). Global state of biodiversity and loss. Annual
Review of Environmental Resources, 28, 137167.
Dreyfus, A., Wals, A.E.J. & van Weelie, D. (1999). Biodiversity as a
postmodern theme for environmental education. Canadian Journal of
Environmental Education, 4, 155176.
Duelli, P. & Obrist, M.K. (2003). Biodiversity indicators: the choice of values
and measures. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 98, 8798.
Mervis, J. (2015). Why many U.S. biology teachers are wishy-washy.
Science, 347, 1054.
Navarro-Perez, M. & Tidball, K.G. (2012). Challenges of biodiversity
education: a review of educational strategies for biodiversity education.
International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education, 2, 1330.
NGSS Lead States (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By
States. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Pimm, S.L., Jenkins, C.N., Abell, R., Brooks, T.M., Gittleman, J.L., Joppa, L.N. et
al. (2014). The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction,
distribution, and protection. Science, 344, 1246752.
Potter, C.S., Cohen, J.I. & Janezewski, D. (Eds). (1993). Perspectives on
Biodiversity: Case Studies of Genetic Resource Conservation and
Development. Washington, DC: AAAS.
Waldron, A., Mooers, A.O., Miller, D.C., Nibbelink, N., Redding, D.,
Kuhn, T.S. et al. (2013). Targeting global conservation funding to limit
immediate biodiversity declines. Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences USA, 110, 1214412148.
Wilson, E.O. (2006). The Creation: A Meeting of Science and Religion.
New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
JOEL I. COHEN is a teacher in the Science Department of the Montgomery
County Public Schools, 4610 West Frankfort Dr., Rockville, MD 20853; an
Instructor for the Graduate School USA /Audubon Naturalist Society,
Woodend, MD; and Instructor for John Hopkins Universitys Center for
Talented Youth. E-mail:
For Information:
Online MS in Biology
Master of Science (Non-thesis option)
Online Master’s Degree in Biological Sciences
for K-12 teachers and other science educators
x All courses offered online
x Reduced tuition
x No out-of-state tuition differential
x No residency requirement
x 30 semester hours of graduate credits
x Up to 12 credits of graduate courses
may transfer for the degree
The courses offered in the %,2/21/,1( Program are fully accredited
through Clemson University by the Southern Association of Colleges and
Schools (SACS). CU is an equal opportunity employer

Supplementary resource (1)

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A means for measuring time lines for endangered species declines or recoveries serves as an entry point for evaluating ecosystem health and reversal of threats arising from human intrusions. Following presentation and review of an example scenario to the class, students then use guided inquiry to determine their own species of interest, its habitat, and trends in decline or recovery through biology, math, graphing, and geography. This paper presents one example and asks the audience to participate in their own study by selecting one endangered species. Each study will be presented and followed by discussion of findings, with outcomes related directly to NGSS core ideas and performance expectations.
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As part of a short biodiversity unit, a survey was developed for students to express their ethical values regarding conservation of biodiversity or protection of species. The unit spanned four class periods, combining species diversity science, the plight of endangered species and their protection, a living reptile program presented in the classroom, poster art supporting protection of a specific species, and the ethics survey. 2014 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license ( and, which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.
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A standard part of biology curricula is a project-based assessment of cell structure and function. However, these are often individual assignments that promote little problem-solving or group learning and avoid the subject of organelle chemical interactions. I evaluate a model-based cell project designed to foster group and individual guided inquiry, and review how the project stimulates problem-solving at a cellular system level. Students begin with four organism cell types, label organelles, describe their structures, and affix chemicals produced or needed for each organelle’s function. Students simulate cell signaling, cell recognition, and transport of molecules through membranes. After describing the project, I present measures of student participation and a rubric, compare individual versus group work, and highlight future modifications, including alignment with the Next Generation Science Standard of “Structure, Function, and Information Processing.”
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Background A principal function of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is to “perform regular and timely assessments of knowledge on biodiversity.” In December 2013, its second plenary session approved a program to begin a global assessment in 2015. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and five other biodiversity-related conventions have adopted IPBES as their science-policy interface, so these assessments will be important in evaluating progress toward the CBD’s Aichi Targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020. As a contribution toward such assessment, we review the biodiversity of eukaryote species and their extinction rates, distributions, and protection. We document what we know, how it likely differs from what we do not, and how these differences affect biodiversity statistics. Interestingly, several targets explicitly mention “known species”—a strong, if implicit, statement of incomplete knowledge. We start by asking how many species are known and how many remain undescribed. We then consider by how much human actions inflate extinction rates. Much depends on where species are, because different biomes contain different numbers of species of different susceptibilities. Biomes also suffer different levels of damage and have unequal levels of protection. How extinction rates will change depends on how and where threats expand and whether greater protection counters them. Advances Recent studies have clarified where the most vulnerable species live, where and how humanity changes the planet, and how this drives extinctions. These data are increasingly accessible, bringing greater transparency to science and governance. Taxonomic catalogs of plants, terrestrial vertebrates, freshwater fish, and some marine taxa are sufficient to assess their status and the limitations of our knowledge. Most species are undescribed, however. The species we know best have large geographical ranges and are often common within them. Most known species have small ranges, however, and such species are typically newer discoveries. The numbers of known species with very small ranges are increasing quickly, even in well-known taxa. They are geographically concentrated and are disproportionately likely to be threatened or already extinct. We expect unknown species to share these characteristics. Current rates of extinction are about 1000 times the background rate of extinction. These are higher than previously estimated and likely still underestimated. Future rates will depend on many factors and are poised to increase. Finally, although there has been rapid progress in developing protected areas, such efforts are not ecologically representative, nor do they optimally protect biodiversity. Outlook Progress on assessing biodiversity will emerge from continued expansion of the many recently created online databases, combining them with new global data sources on changing land and ocean use and with increasingly crowdsourced data on species’ distributions. Examples of practical conservation that follow from using combined data in Colombia and Brazil can be found at and .
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Inadequate funding levels are a major impediment to effective global biodiversity conservation and are likely associated with recent failures to meet United Nations biodiversity targets. Some countries are more severely underfunded than others and therefore represent urgent financial priorities. However, attempts to identify these highly underfunded countries have been hampered for decades by poor and incomplete data on actual spending, coupled with uncertainty and lack of consensus over the relative size of spending gaps. Here, we assemble a global database of annual conservation spending. We then develop a statistical model that explains 86% of variation in conservation expenditures, and use this to identify countries where funding is robustly below expected levels. The 40 most severely underfunded countries contain 32% of all threatened mammalian diversity and include neighbors in some of the world's most biodiversity-rich areas (Sundaland, Wallacea, and Near Oceania). However, very modest increases in international assistance would achieve a large improvement in the relative adequacy of global conservation finance. Our results could therefore be quickly applied to limit immediate biodiversity losses at relatively little cost.
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Biodiversity conservation has increasingly gained recognition in national and international agendas. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has positioned biodiversity as a key asset to be protected to ensure our well-being and that of future generations. Nearly 20 years after its inception, results are not as expected, as shown in the latest revision of the 2010 CBD target. Various factors may affect the implementation of the CBD, including lack of public education and awareness on biodiversity-related issues. This paper explores how biodiversity education has been carried out and documents successes and failures in the field. Based on a comprehensive literature review, we identified four main challenges: the need to define an approach for biodiversity education, biodiversity as an ill-defined concept, appropriate communication, and the disconnection between people and nature. These represent obstacles to the achievement of educational targets, and therefore, to accomplishing conservation goals as set forth by the CBD. Keywords: Biodiversity education, environmental education, education for sustainable development, biodiversity awareness, biodiversity communication.
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Ideally, an indicator for biodiversity is a linear correlate to the entity or aspect of biodiversity under evaluation. Different motivations for assessing entities or aspects of biodiversity lead to different value systems; their indicators may not correlate at all. For biodiversity evaluation in agricultural landscapes, three indices are proposed, each consisting of a basket of concordant indicators. They represent the three value systems “conservation” (protection and enhancement of rare and threatened species), “ecology” (ecological resilience, ecosystem functioning, based on species diversity), and “biological control” (diversity of antagonists of potential pest organisms). The quality and reliability of commonly used indicators could and should be tested with a three-step approach. First, the motivations and value systems and their corresponding biodiversity aspects or entities have to be defined. In a time consuming second step, a number of habitats have to be sampled as thoroughly as possible with regard to one or several of the three value systems or motivations. The third step is to test the linear correlations of a choice of easily measurable indicators with the entities quantified in the second step. Some examples of good and bad correlations are discussed.
Future science teachers lack knowledge and role models.
Next Generation Science Standards identifies the science all K-12 students should know. These new standards are based on the National Research Council's A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve have partnered to create standards through a collaborative state-led process. The standards are rich in content and practice and arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. The print version of Next Generation Science Standards complements the website and: Provides an authoritative offline reference to the standards when creating lesson plans. Arranged by grade level and by core discipline, making information quick and easy to find. Printed in full color with a lay-flat spiral binding. Allows for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotating.
Biodiversity, a central component of Earth's life support systems, is directly relevant to human societies. We examine the dimensions and nature of the Earth's terrestrial biodiversity and review the scientific facts concerning the rate of loss of biodiversity and the drivers of this loss. The estimate for the total number of species of eukaryotic organisms possible lies in the 5–15 million range, with a best guess of ∼7 million. Species diversity is unevenly distributed; the highest concentrations are in tropical ecosystems. Endemisms are concentrated in a few hotspots, which are in turn seriously threatened by habitat destruction—the most prominent driver of biodiversity loss. For the past 300 years, recorded extinctions for a few groups of organisms reveal rates of extinction at least several hundred times the rate expected on the basis of the geological record. The loss of biodiversity is the only truly irreversible global environmental change the Earth faces today.