Humans may think they rule the world, but it’s beetles that really dominate it. In The Book of Beetles, editor Patrice Bouchard goes in-depth about these creatures that make up a quarter of the world’s animals. With 400,000 known species, these insects are about as abundant as they are interesting. This excerpt, which provides information on how some beetle species are being threatened by endangerment and extinction, is from the section “Beetle Conservation.”
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™ is a global effort that provides comprehensive data on the conservation status of plants and animals. As of 2014, the IUCN Red List contains 527 species of beetles, primarily from the families Dytiscidae, Carabidae, Lucanidae, Scarabaeidae, and Curculionidae. They are categorized as Least Concern (209), Near Threatened (38), Vulnerable (45), Endangered (44), Critically Endangered (12), and Extinct (16); the remaining species are listed Data Deficient and lack adequate information on their distribution and abundance.
Rare and Endangered Species
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international trade agreement that aims to ensure international trade in species of wild plants and animals does not threaten their survival. The cites appendices (I–III) afford different levels of protection from overexploitation, where Appendix I lists the most endangered species that are threatened with extinction. For example, all 17 species of the flightless stag beetle Colophon (Lucanidae), which are restricted to isolated mountaintops in South Africa, are listed on both the IUCN Red List as endangered and cites Appendix I, primarily because of the high prices they command in the marketplace. Dynastes satanas (Scarabaeidae), is the only other beetle mentioned by CITES, in Appendix II, which means that it is not necessarily threatened by extinction, but could be if trade is not closely controlled.
Many countries that are signatories of CITES have their own laws that recognize and protect endangered and threatened wildlife, including beetles. For example, the Endangered Species Act 1973 of the United States lists 18 species of beetles, three as threatened and 15 as endangered. Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 lists one beetle, the Wielangta Stag Beetle (Lissotes latidens), as endangered. Individual states and provinces of these countries also afford endangered and threatened status to beetles that may or may not be recognized nationally.
Other countries recognize sensitive species of beetles in their Red Data books that enact ordinances that prohibit the collection, trading, and export of species protected elsewhere by other conventions. Two European organizations actively promote the conservation of beetles on the basis of their ecological roles. The Water Beetle Specialist Group, part of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN, recognizes the importance of aquatic beetles as bioindicators in wetland management in Europe and Southeast Asia. The Saproxylic Invertebrates Project focuses on selected groups of invertebrates, including beetles, dependent upon standing or fallen trees or wood-inhabiting fungi.
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This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Book of Beetles, edited by Patrice Bouchard and published by The University of Chicago Press, 2014.