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This Week in Biodiversity News – 14th December 2020

Luanne Wilkes
Luanne Wilkes

Following a recent update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the European bison (Bison bonasus) is now classified as Near Threatened, rather than Vulnerable, thanks to conservation efforts focusing on improving population levels. Other changes to the list include the movement of a further 31 species into the Extinct category.

In a rare bit of good news for 2020, bowhead whale populations in US waters are close to pre-commercial whaling numbers, despite the continual warming of Arctic waters. The only baleen whale that lives in the Arctic year-round, bowhead whales have long been threatened by commercial whaling, and almost went extinct around the turn of the 20th century. The cessation of commercial whaling, along with sustainable management and stewardship programmes, have seen populations rebound.

Plastic bags and packaging are the biggest killers of marine macrofauna such as whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds, according to a wide-ranging review, recently published in the journal Conservation Letters. The paper also discusses potential policy changes that could reduce the amount of these deadly materials entering our oceans. This is of particular importance in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, where the use of single-use plastics has significantly increased.