Coordinating Lead Author, IPBES Global Assessment and Life Sciences Research Leader at The Natural History Museum, London
The IPBES Global Assessment estimated that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. It also documents how human actions have changed many aspects of nature and its contributions to people; but species threatened with extinction resonate with the media and the public in ways that degradation of habitats and alteration of rates of ecosystem processes perhaps don’t, so the figure was widely reported.
IPBES is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, an independent intergovernmental body that was established in 2012 to strenthen links between science and policy to support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being, and sustainable development
Because only the Summary for Policymakers has so far been made available, it wasn’t clear where the figure of 1 million threatened species came from. Some journalists and researchers asked me, so I explained it to them, and will explain it again here. Some other writers, often with a long history of commenting critically on reports highlighting environmental concerns, instead railed against the Global Assessment in general and the figure of 1 million threatened species in particular. Given that these writers often advance empty or bogus arguments, I thought it would be also be useful to explain why these arguments are wrong.
I have therefore written this blog post in the form of thirteen questions and answers.
Starting the Neglected Tropical Disease summit in Geneva this week gone, the World Health Organisation brought together its global partners for a meeting to launch the 4th WHO report on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). As an important player in the global effort to control and eliminate these debilitating diseases, the Museum has been following the meeting closely.
The Museum has had a long history of researching NTDs, particularly those caused by worm infections and/or transmitted by insects. Today the Museum hosts DeWorm3, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major project researching the control and elimination of soil-transmitted helminths, aka intestinal worms. Intestinal worms are the most common of NTDs. DeWorm3 and Museum NTD experts travelled to Geneva for the NTD summit and report on the meeting.
This recent interview outlines the plans and vision for DeWorm3, a major Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Museum project that is conducting rigorous research to provide evidence for the next generation of policies to guide the global control and elimination of infection by soil-transmitted helminths – STH.
As someone with two science degrees and a fascination for the unusual I was intrigued, when I found out that the Museum is a world leader in the research of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial infections that affect over 1 billion people worldwide. Infection can lead to disabling chronic conditions, delayed and cognitive development. Children are predominantly affected and impacted as they are more likely to come into contact with the parasites.
The research at the Museum has in recent years mainly focused on schistosomiasis (also known as Bilharzia), a debilitating disease caused by schistosome blood flukes that are picked up from contaminated fresh water – freshwater snails are hosts for part of the life cycle.
However, Museum research is now radically expanding to include major work on a group of NTDs called Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) and they have recently launched DeWorm3. Aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of using integrated platforms to interrupt the transmission of STH, DeWorm3 is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.