Why is the disappearance of reptiles so worrying?

Nearly a fifth of reptiles are directly threatened with extinction, according to an international study carried out by some twenty researchers, and published on April 27 in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. An ecological disaster that seriously threatens the health of our ecosystems.

An increasingly sensitive environment

Snakes, lizards and turtles indeed play an essential role in the balance of ecosystems. Without them, for example, rodents, in excess, would destroy our crops. Reptiles also help us in medical research. The venom of Mamba snakes is thus a very promising painkiller, even more powerful than morphine!

But the preservation of these animals should not only be justified by the services they render to us. Reptiles also bring genetic diversity to life, warns the researcher at the CNRS and the Center for Biological Studies in ChizĂ©, Olivier Lourdais: “The interest of these organisms is not only utilitarian, because they are part of the biodiversity,” he insists.

“It is important to preserve them as such, to avoid a phenomenon of major decline like those in progress, which risk simplifying our environment – in impoverishment in terms of biological diversity”, underlines Olivier Lourdais. “This will have the consequence of make it much more susceptible to future disturbances, and to threaten us, humans, directly.”

Forests razed at the rate of ten football pitches per minute

Reptiles mostly disappear from tropical forests. In 2021, these were razed at the rate of ten football pitches per minute, particularly in Brazil.

In France also, vipers and lizards are rare. This is also the subject of a study carried out in Loire-Atlantique, in which Olivier Lourdais participated, and which should be published in the coming days. “In the space of twenty years, we have 92% reduction for the adder and 74% for the green lizard”, he reveals. “These two species were present initially, thanks to the edges, the edges of woods and the edges of hedges”, explains the researcher. “But the degradation of these environments is the major factor responsible for the decline of these species, due to practices intensive agricultural crops, such as corn,” he continues.

An agriculture that reintegrates elements of semi-wild landscapes, such as the hedgerows that once bordered the fields, is therefore to be preferred if we want to find our reptiles.

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