There is a World Conservation Congress held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their 2016 meeting set new conservation strategies for protecting some of the world’s endangered species. Pest species are one of the controversial subjects.
The World Conservation Congress is hosted by Honolulu, Hawaii, and more than ten thousand officials and environmentalists are part of the event. The entire week is dedicated to the important event, which discusses crucial issues of our planet.
One of the most important topics was the genetic alteration. Specialists reviewed the possibility of the new technology of gene drive. This method would allow scientists to modify the genes of certain species. Moreover, the process can even lead to the extinction of those species. Some of the members of the Congress think that this could be the solution for fighting against invasive species.
On the other hand, there were scientists who didn’t approve of the method. They stated that a lot of analyses need to be done, as well as precaution measures need to be taken before being able to approve such a method. There are many risks they have to take into consideration before running any test using this new technology.
To alter genes means to modify the DNA. Generally, offspring inherit half of their parents’ genetic legacy. Researchers have recently discovered that they can control this natural process to a much larger extent than they initially thought.
However, the technology of gene drive can also be used to protect the species. For instance, the Congress members in Hawaii thought about local birds which suffer from malaria. It is mosquitoes that infect the birds with the disease, causing them to be on the list of endangered species. Scientists think that they can alter mosquitoes’ genes so that they wouldn’t be able to spread the disease among other species.
The gene drive technology can be considered one of the new conservation strategies set by the Congress. The specialists’ committee also discussed the possibility of reducing invasive populations such as rats, using the same technology.
The members of the Congress are aware of the need to implement new conservation strategies. The alarming number of endangered species and the warming waters of the world’s oceans are among their concerns. Human activity such as poaching, overfishing or industrial activities also interferes with the natural ecosystems. The natural world seems to be asking for our help.
However, there is good news too. Officials have recently announced that the panda bears are not considered to be endangered anymore, as well as some of the humpback whale populations.
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia