What areas should Canada protect to save species at risk of extinction?
At the recent COP 15 conference in Montreal, Canada committed to protecting 30% of its land by 2030, but which areas are most crucial to protect for at-risk species such as the spotted turtles? In a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, McGill University researchers overlayed maps of species at risk to find hotspots where many species live together. They found that hotspots often overlap. For example, more than half the hotspots for at-risk birds are also hotspots for at-risk insects. One of these 100 square kilometre areas could contain more than 130 at-risk species. “If protected areas are put in the right places, protecting a small fraction of Canadian land could protect habitat for many at risk species,” said co-author and Biology Professor Anna Hargreaves. But the researchers say the clock is ticking. Only 3.8% of the most valuable land for conservation is currently protected. More than 2/3 of at-risk species in Canada have less than 10% of their Canadian range protected, according to the researchers, and the most endangered species have the least protection. “Most hotspots are in southern Ontario and Quebec where there is little natural land left and what remains is threatened by ongoing clearing and development,” said Hargreaves. The researchers hope their work can help governments do a better job of safeguarding at-risk species.