Is conservation losing ground?

With the recent publication of two reports on progress towards global conservation goals, it seems that despite best intentions, there is insufficient progress for it to be likely that most of the goals for the Aichi Targets  or the related Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) will be met. Is this an indication that the goals were too ambitious or that there is little public or political interest in conservation at a national and global level?

GSPC mid-term report (pdf) ,,, technical background document (pdf)

CBD mid-term report (27mb pdf)

The one goal that shows promise is GSPC Target 1: an online flora of all known plants.

“The World Flora Online (WFO) will be an information discovery portal, bringing together floristic data on all known plant species that are  currently available in various electronic formats. WFO will include baseline information on plant names, distributions, descriptions, and related information. It will provide a single consensus classification, and give the user expert guidance on reliability, accuracy and completeness. The WFO aims to primarily be a reference for conservationists. Currently a roadmap for the project is being prepared with planning of which elements should be included in the first release.” ¹

For more information and a list of existing databases 

The sheer proliferation of on-line data about species conservation, is in stark contrast to the work completed on the ground:

“In 2010, the global level of IUCN Red listed species was 14,000 accounting for less than 4% of the world’s species. By the end of 2013, 18,291 species were red listed (6% of the world’s species) with 3,419 new plant assessments being added in 2013. The total list is currently at 19,374 plant species and of these 10,487 (54%) are threatened with extinction. ” ²

Bearing in mind that there are estimated to be approximately 400, 000 plant species, the outlook is not rosy. Is it time for a rethink, or to press on with what progress we can manage towards a rapidly receding pair of goal posts?

¹p 10 Sharrock, S., Oldfield, S. and Wilson, O. (2014).Plant Conservation Report 2014: A review of progress in implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 2011-2020. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montréal, Canada and Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond, UK. Technical Series No. 81, 56 pages.