A recent report trumpeting a broad recovery of iconic bird and mammal species across the European continent masks a deep problem.

Rebound. European bison (Bison bonasus), Bialowieza forest, Poland. (Photo: Stefano Unterthiner/Wild Wonders of Europe)

Rebound. European bison (Bison bonasus), Bialowieza forest, Poland. (Photo: Stefano Unterthiner/Wild Wonders of Europe)

Good news:large, rare animals locked away in protected areas benefit enormously from conservation measures taken by organizations that can buy land and create nature reserves.

Bad news: the “return” of an impressive number of birds and mammals does not signal a turnaround. None of the featured species have become sustainable populations. Global biodiversity continues to decline dramatically.

Falling behind. A dying honeybee who may have been inflicted with foulbrood disease which is killing bees in the US in Europe. 10 million bee hives have disappeared from the world in the last 6 years. EU member states have imposed a ban on classes of pesticides which are linked to massive bee die-offs.

Falling behind. A dying honeybee who may have been inflicted with foulbrood disease which is killing bees in the US and Europe. 10 million bee hives have disappeared from the world in the last 6 years. EU member states have imposed a ban on classes of pesticides linked to massive bee die-offs. (Photo: Rob Howard/Corbis)

Worse news: the more ubiquitous species, the great bulk of life on earth—common plants, common birds, common insects, killed by resource extraction, agriculture, development and artificially altering the chemical makeup of the natural world—that require large diverse habitats and vastly different measures and systems to sustain life continue to show massive declines.

Saving a select few keystone animals isn’t enough. The key factor in all the recoveries listed is the withdrawal of human influence on landscapes.

The species falling behind can only be saved through changes in public policies directed at agriculture, extraction, hunting, and solid, unequivocal protection of air and water.


Shout out: Richard Conniff.

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