Study: Plant-Eating Animals Are Most at Risk of Extinction
Scientists often worry about the loss of the world's meat-eating animals. But a wide-reaching new study finds that plant-eating animals, or herbivores, are at higher risk of extinction.
In the new study, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, shows that about one in four species of herbivores, or 25.5 percent, are considered threatened. The IUCN, an organization of government and civilian groups, is widely recognized as the leading scientific source on extinction risk.
Trisha Atwood, of Utah State University, led the research. She told the Associated Press that by comparison, 17.4 percent of meat eaters and 15.8 percent of omnivores, animals that eat meat and plants, are at risk.
The study appeared earlier this month in the publication Science Advances.
The researchers examined data for 22,166 species of animals with backbones. They noted whether each animal was a reptile, bird or mammal. They also examined animals by size, living environment and the area of the world they live in. On just about every measure, they found plant eaters were most at risk, especially in forest environments.
"The implications for this are huge," Atwood said. "We need to think about herbivores as being kind of the poster child of extinction."
So instead of polar bears and tigers, think of plant eaters like rhinoceroses and green sea turtles, Atwood said. The last male northern white rhinoceros in the wild died in 2018, but scientists are working to save the species through the use of stored embryos.
The study centered on proportionality. There are many more predator species, so there are more predators at risk in total, but a larger share of herbivores are in trouble.
Scientists even examined data on more than 2,000 species no longer alive. Again, they found herbivores had the highest share of extinction risk.
Atwood went into the study thinking that meat eaters were most at risk. However, she said the data — which included land and water species — pointed clearly at herbivores.
Meat eaters she added, also are in trouble, but not as much as the herbivores they often eat.
Extinction causes, like invasive species, climate change and loss of living environments, affect herbivores more than other animals, Atwood said.
Size may be part of the reason herbivores are more at risk, the ecologist said. Large herbivores need to eat more and so require more land. But the environments in which they live are shrinking, she said. Meat eaters and omnivores have larger areas in which to find food.
Duke University conservation scientist Stuart Pimm, who was not part of the study, expressed some criticism of the research. He said it does not take into consideration the huge importance of available land area for food searches, a critical need for meat eaters.
University of Miami biologist Mauro Galetti also was not part of the research. He said Atwood's study is important, makes sense and questions the traditional belief that environmental protection projects should center on top meat eaters.
Large herbivores are highly important, especially in places like forests, Galetti said. "A world without herbivores would be a disaster for any natural ecosystem."
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Many had lost all in the disaster and were destitute.
The ecosystem will be thrown out of whack.
He's a natural with any kind of engine.
The hospital of traditional Chinese medicine installed a computer to fill prescriptions.
5.He said it does not take into consideration the huge importance of available land area for food searches, a critical need for meat eaters.
take into consideration 考虑
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We have to take into consideration the parameter of practicality and artistry.
6.He said Atwood's study is important, makes sense and questions the traditional belief that environmental protection projects should center on top meat eaters.
make sense 有意义
On the face of it that seems to make sense. But the figures don't add up.
There are some stylistic elements in the statue that just don't make sense.
科学家们常常担心世界上的食肉动物灭绝 。但一项涉猎广泛的新研究发现，以植物为食的动物或食草动物面临的灭绝风险更高 。
在这项新研究中，国际自然保护联盟(IUCN)指出，大约四分之一或25.5%的食草动物被认为面临灭绝的风险 。国际自然保护联盟是一个由政府和民间团体组成的组织，是公认的研究动物灭绝的主要科学组织 。
犹他州立大学的特里莎·阿特伍德（Trisha Atwood）领导了这项研究 。她告诉美联社记者，相比之下，17.4%的肉食动物和15.8%的杂食动物（既食肉也食草）面临灭绝的风险 。
研究人员核查了22166种脊骨动物的数据，并标注所有动物的属性——爬行动物、鸟类、哺乳动物 。他们还研究了动物体型大小，生活环境和栖息的区域 。他们发现，不管以哪种标准衡量，食草动物面临的灭绝风险都是最大的——尤其是生活在森林环境中 。
阿特伍德指出，与其担心北极熊或老虎，不如先拯救犀牛和绿海龟等草食动物 。2018年，最后一只野生雄性北白犀牛死亡，但科学家们正努力通过利用储存的胚胎来拯救这一物种 。
这项研究集中于比例问题 。研究中涉及的食肉动物更多，所以总的来说，面临灭绝危险的食肉动物也就更多，但是更高比例的食草动物也濒临灭绝 。
进行这项研究前，阿特伍德认为食肉动物面临的风险最大 。然而，包括陆地和水域物种在内的数据清楚地指向了食草动物 。
这位生态学家表示，体型可能是食草动物面临更大风险的部分原因 。大型食草动物需要更多的食物，因此需要更多的土地 。阿特伍德指出，但它们的生存环境正在缩减 。而肉食动物和杂食动物有更大的觅食空间 。
杜克大学的保护科学家斯图亚特·皮姆（Stuart Pimm）没有参与这项研究，他对这项研究提出了一些批评意见 。他表示，研究没有考虑到可狩猎的土地范围的重要性，这是肉食动物的迫切需求 。
迈阿密大学的生物学家毛罗·加莱蒂（University of Miami）也未参与这项研究 。他表示，阿特伍德的研究很重要也很有意义，并质疑了环保项目应该以顶级肉食动物为中心的传统观念 。
加莱蒂称，大型食草动物非常重要，尤其是在森林中 。“对于任何自然生态系统来说没有食草动物都是一场灾难 。”