Australian scientists launch 25-year mission to document undiscovered species

CANBERRA, June 2 (Xinhua) -- A coalition of leading Australian scientists has called for funding to document the country's undiscovered flora and fauna.

The Australian Academy of Science (AAS) on Wednesday said that time was running out to name and document species with global warming increasing the risk of extinction.

It said that 824 million Australian dollars (638.7 million U.S. dollars) in funding will be needed over the next 25 years to complete the task.

Kevin Thiele, the director of taxonomy at the AAS, said that only 30 percent of Australia's estimated 750,000 species have been properly documented.

"Without this mission, it's likely to take more than 400 years to discover all remaining Australian plants, animals, fungi and other organisms. A 16-fold increase in the annual rate of discovery is required over the next 25 years to meet this ambitious goal," he said in a media release.

"Combining the skills of our current and future scientists with new technologies such as genome sequencing, artificial intelligence, and supercomputing makes this ambitious goal achievable by 2050."

"The successful completion of this mission will help build a path to a sustainable and prosperous future and place Australia among the first nations in the world to benefit from a fully documented biodiversity."

According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, every dollar invested in discovering all remaining Australian species will deliver up to 35 Australian dollars (27.1 U.S. dollars) of economic benefits.

Kevin Thiele, a plant expert who is currently working on documenting 20 species, told The Guardian that scientific advancements in machine learning created an opportunity to scale up the discovery of new species.

"Now is the first time in history that we can do this," he said.

"But as well, there is enormous need because (of) climate change and all the other stresses (on the natural world.)"

[ Editor: WPY ]