Beijing, May 5 (Zhongxin Net) -- How many kinds of creatures are there on Earth? It has been difficult to have a definitive answer to this question.

Studies have found that there are about 1 trillion species of life on Earth, and humans currently know only one in <>,<> of the total.

Over the years, with the protection of the ecological environment and the research and investigation of scientists, new species have been continuously discovered. At the same time, some species have disappeared forever from the earth.

Changes in the amount of data in the Catalogue of Biological Species of China over the years Image source: WeChat public account of the Biodiversity Committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

What are the changes in the latest version of China's biological species list?

On May 5, the International Day for Biological Diversity, the Biodiversity Committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences released the 22 edition of the Catalogue of Biological Species of China online. According to the official website of "Species 2023 China Node", compared with the 2000 version, the 2022 version of the list has added 2023,10027 species and 354 subspecific units.

Among them, 1476 species and 10 subspecific units were added to the animal kingdom, 351 species and 24 subspecific units were added to the plant kingdom, and 8202 species and 320 subspecific units were added to the fungal kingdom.

It can be noted that the fungal kingdom has the largest number of new species in the 2023 list.

Screenshot of the official website of "Species 2000 China Node"

At the press conference on the same day, in addition to introducing the latest version of China's biological species list, the newly published species in China in 2022 were also introduced.

Specifically, in the animal kingdom, 2022 new vertebrate species will be added in China in 117. These new species include 97 new species, 17 new records, and 3 subspecies upgraded to the species level. Among them, amphibians are the most (44 species), followed by fish (28 species), reptiles (25 species), and relatively few mammals and birds, with 14 species and 6 species respectively. Expert analysis shows that the number of new species of birds is much lower than that of other vertebrate groups, suggesting that their taxonomic research work may be relatively systematic and comprehensive.

Image source: WeChat public account of the Biodiversity Committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

For insects, a total of 2022 new insect taxonomic units were published in China in 1106, including 1 new family, 28 new genera, 8 new subgenera, 1069 new species and subspecies elements. For plants, in 2022, a total of 9 new genera of plants, 278 new species, 19 new taxa, 5 new record genera and 51 new record species were published in China, and 4 species that had not been seen for many years were rediscovered.

Geographically, Yunnan is a hotspot for the discovery of new species in China, along with Tibet, Guangxi, Guangdong, Sichuan, etc. Experts found that for vertebrates, the new species involved 27 provinces, including 37 species in Yunnan, 19 species in Tibet, 14 species in Guangxi and Guangdong, and 10 species in Sichuan, accounting for about 73% of the total number of new species.

In addition, for insects, Yunnan Province is also a hotspot for the discovery of new species in China, accounting for 28% of the country's new species.

Bulbophyllum lingii. Photo by Huang Mingzhong

What does it mean to discover new species one after another?

"Recently, more and more new species have been discovered, could it be that the earth has begun to accelerate its evolution?" "How are new species born?" For the new species discovered one after another, many netizens expressed curiosity.

"The new species itself is objective. In the past 20 years, the average number of new plant species found in China every year is about 200. Liu Bing, an associate researcher at the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, once told that in addition to the continuous discovery of new species, new records of domestic species are also increasing.

The picture shows a new plant species found in the Three Gorges area, Vincetoxicum pingtaoanum.

Liu Bing said that there are three main reasons for the discovery of new species:

First, the research conditions have been improved, filling the collection gap. In the past, due to traffic and other conditions, it was impossible to reach some areas for investigation, but now the conditions of transportation, infrastructure and other conditions have improved, so that field investigations can go deeper into the border, deep mountains and other places.

Second, some common species have been reclassified and defined. As the research deepened, some species that were previously unaware of being new were also re-recognized.

The third is the restoration of the ecological environment, which promotes the recovery and growth of species. Returning farmland to forests and grasslands has restored vegetation in many areas, and some species that were originally endangered have been able to recover their populations, making them easier for researchers to find.

Hemipilia yajiangensis. Photo by Hu Guangwan

In addition, some researchers said that new species continue to be discovered, which shows that China's protection of vegetation and environment has achieved results, "vegetation is the carrier of species survival and reproduction, and is the basis for biodiversity dependence." Good conservation of vegetation is conducive to biodiversity conservation. ”

What is the role of the discovery of new species? Experts in the field of insects say that global biodiversity is currently in a channel of decline. Studies have shown that 40 percent of the world's insect species are in "dramatic decline," and insect populations are declining about twice as fast as vertebrates. In this context, the discovery of new species and the timely updating of biological species inventories are of great significance for biodiversity research and conservation.

Hainan partition orchid Cleisostoma hainanense. Photo by Huang Mingzhong

Which species have declined?

In recent years, China has further increased the protection of wild animals and plants. According to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, at present, the wild populations of more than 300 rare and endangered wild animals and plants, such as Asian elephants, snow leopards, Siberian tigers, Hainan gibbons, golden snub-nosed monkeys, Tibetan antelopes, mangshan ironhead snakes, cycads, and orchids, have steadily increased.

For example, the number of canopy trees has grown from 6 at the time of its discovery to 1,5. The wild population of Asian elephants increased to more than 300, the wild population of Hainan gibbons increased to 6 in 37 groups, the distribution range of Siberian tigers expanded from the Changbai Mountains to the Greater and Small Xing'an Mountains, and the wild population increased to about 60. The global population of captive giant pandas reached 698, the population of captive-bred crested ibises reached 1496, and so on.

Adult paddlefish. Wei Qiwei Photo

However, while new species are emerging, some are disappearing. According to the "WWF World Wide Fund for Nature" WeChat public account, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the extinction of more than 2022 species in 40, including white sturgeon, Ningming Qiongnan, Mexican starling, Pinta giant tortoise, southern stomach breeding frog and so on.

Source: Plant Science Data Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences

In addition, in February 2023, the Zoological Society of London published a paper in the journal Animal Protection, "'Lost' taxa and their implied conservation information", which listed 2 species on the IUCN Red List that had not been discovered for at least 562 years. These include 50 species of amphibians, 137 species of reptiles, 257 species of birds and 38 species of mammals. (End)