Invertebrates (animals without backbones) constitute 95% of all animal species on Earth, and perform vital roles in all ecological systems. Despite their importance, many invertebrate species are disappearing at an alarming rate.
The CBC seeks to raise public awareness about the value of invertebrates, bringing citizens and scientists together to enhance knowledge of invertebrates and their conservation; developing scientific tools to address key obstacles to invertebrate conservation, drawing on the taxonomic strengths of the Museum; and offering regional resources, linking a broader user base to practical information and tools for local invertebrate research and conservation.
Invertebrates dominate virtually every global ecosystem in terms of species richness, biomass, and ecological function. Taken as a whole, the Invertebrata constitute 80% of Earth's species, and over 95% of all animal species. The phylum Arthropoda alone, with roughly 1.1 million described species, represents over 82% of all animal diversity. Invertebrates are pervasive elements of every food chain, as herbivores, predators, parasites, and decomposers. They are food for mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and other invertebrates. Ecosystem services provided by invertebrates — such as pollination, soil creation and aeration, decomposition, and seed dispersal — are estimated to be worth trillions of dollars to our economy each year.
Widespread threats to invertebrate biodiversity, such as habitat loss, introduced species, and pollution, are rapidly driving many invertebrate species to the edge of extinction. In the US, the three most endangered groups of organisms — freshwater mussels, crayfish, and stoneflies — are all invertebrates. Almost 70% of all freshwater mussel species are in need of immediate conservation measures, compared to just 16% of mammals and 14% of bird species. The imperilment of invertebrates is not solely a North American crisis — some 22% of Austria's invertebrates are considered threatened or endangered, as are almost 1,600 species of Britain's insect fauna.
Despite their importance, these poorly described and often misunderstood animals are largely absent from the majority of conservation planning and biodiversity management strategies. Developing innovative approaches to overcoming the dearth of taxonomic and ecological understanding of many invertebrates, while devising strategies for monitoring, managing, and conserving the millions of invertebrate species represents one of the greatest challenges facing today's conservation community. In addition, efforts to conserve invertebrates are severely hampered by a lack of public understanding of the values of invertebrate biodiversity.