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De-extinction could actually be more harmful for biodiversity than beneficial

Posted March 2, 2017

Reversing damage that humanity has caused for the planet seems to be a good idea. Furthermore, resurrecting extinct animals that we have never had a chance to see would be a tremendous achievement as well. However a new study from University of Queensland revealed that it could actually lead to biodiversity loss rather than gain.

Someday even mammoths could be brought back from extinction. Image credit: Tiia Monto via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

There are many animals that went extinct before the modern era and scientists say that with current technology it may be possible to bring them back. However, we are struggling to preserve species we have and it may not be the best idea to introduce new animals into ecosystems. What is lost is lost. The main concern is about the budget, actually, since there is a limited amount of money that is allocated for the conservation efforts. It means that spending money on resurrected species would cause current natural ones to lose some funding. Scientists say that despite de-extinction being interesting from scientific point of view, the main focus should be elsewhere.

And these risks have to be calculated and assessed very well before any animals are brought back from the history books. Professor Hugh Possingham said: “Given the considerable potential for missed opportunity, and risks inherent in assuming a resurrected species would fulfil its role as an ecosystem engineer or flagship species, it is unlikely that de-extinction could be justified on grounds of biodiversity conservation”.  Scientists took a look at what governments in New Zealand and New South Wales could afford to conserve and found that, although reintroducing some recently extinct species to their old habitats might improve biodiversity locally, many species would be sacrificed somewhere else because of lack of funding.

For example, funding for conservation of the five focal extinct species would have to be used to protect more than eight times as many species. This is only for future thought as technology for de-extinction is still quite some time away. However, scientists are not saying that it is a bad idea altogether. They just want to encourage people to consider, where de-extinct animals could be introduced with minimal damage to the local wildlife.

It is likely that at first smaller and only recently extinct animals will be brought back to life. Later, as scientists predict, even mammoths can be de-extinct. But before all that they need to think how to preserve those species that we currently have.


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