Sea life at risk, say university experts

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New research from the University of Sheffield has highlighted the increasing risk of extinction to marine life.

One in four species living in the sea are at risk of becoming extinct, according to the new research.

Dr Thomas Webb

Dr Thomas Webb

Overfishing, pollution, climate change and the destruction of habitats such as coral reefs are putting seas at risk – but experts fear the dangers are not being taken seriously enough.

The research, led by Dr Thomas Webb, from the university’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, has shown 20 to 25 per cent of the well-known species living in our seas are under threat – the same figure as land plants and animals.

Dr Webb said: “Until now, there has been a general assumption that, despite pressures on marine environments like pollution and overfishing, marine species are unlikely to be threatened with extinction.

“We have shown that, on the face of it, there are indeed far fewer marine species of conservation concern; but much of this can be explained by the fact the conservation status of fewer marine species has been formally assessed.”

He added: “When we concentrate on those groups of animals and plants which are best known, and where estimates of extinction risk are likely to be most reliable, the difference between marine and non-marine species disappears. Instead, in these groups around one in every four or five species is estimated to be at a heightened risk of extinction, whether they live on land or in the sea.

“We ought to be more concerned about marine species.”

The paper, Global Patterns of Extinction Risk in Marine and Non-Marine Systems, was published by journal Current Biology.