Conservation and Phylogenetics
jjarvie at JAYAPURA.WASANTARA.NET.ID
Fri Jan 30 14:35:03 CST 1998
Following up on the phylogenetics and conservation thread, perhaps folk
should take a step back and consider what "conservation" is. Biological
conservation is principally a process to protect habitats for species, or
species, from our species. Depending on the area and time, conservation
involves politics, negotiation, science and whatever else it takes.
Phylogenetics is a tool in the tool-box. And there is nothing wrong with
In SE Asia, I have difficulty thinking of any example where phylogeny is a
*practical* consideration in conservation except for ex-situ genetic
conservation of wild species related to agricultural crops (if there are
other examples, please let me know). Protection of single species, such as
the Javan rhinoceros or orang utan, work specifically with those species and
no others - phylogeny is not an appropriate tool.
Currently, in an area such as here in Irian Jaya, conservation
implementation competes for land with parties such as plantation and
forestry concession interests. Arguments need to be presented to decision
makers about why conservation for some areas is important. The biological
data we have available are, for parts of the province and some of the taxa,
good. Yet we have many gaps. Conservation advice is provided on these data
and thus organizations such as WWF and CI, on the ground, focus largely on
habitat conservation. Detailed species inventory (such as a CI RAP) will
follow up in some areas, and other studies are badly needed to further
broaden the knowledge base. The bigger the knowledge base, the better we
advise. At the moment, here, conservation practice based on phylogenetic
To finish on a personal note, I fully support the comments in the thread
calling for better partnerships for conservation. No one group has the
In the taxonomic circles, molecular phylogenetics has been the "right way"
for a long time, and now would appear to becoming viewed as what it is - a
tool. In conservation, the "right method" has for too long focused almost
entirely in many areas on community participation (no phylogenies there
either!), which is again a tool.
And on a final personal note, the best help taxonomy can be to large-scale
conservation right now is by inventory, collections development, producing
field guides and keys usable by non-specialists.
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