[Taxacom] conservation

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Apr 26 22:51:12 CDT 2012

an alternative strategy is to conserve habitats/ecosystems, based on their overall biodiversity, rather than try to prioritise particular taxa. The only losers in this case would be threatened phylogenetically isolated taxa in not very diverse habitats ... I'm not sure off hand if there would be many of these? Still, probably a mixture of both strategies would be better still ...

From: Ken Kinman <kinman at hotmail.com>
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu 
Sent: Friday, 27 April 2012 3:42 PM
Subject: [Taxacom] conservation

Hi Donat et al.,      Well, my opinion is still (although not popular with some biologists) is that some taxa should be given higher priority for conservation efforts than others.  The question is just what are most of these species which are going extinct every day or every year.  If a few dozen species among speciose (and perhaps oversplit) taxa of beetles or flies or nematodes or other fast radiating taxa (some angiosperm genera) are lost, is that as important as the loss of even a single species of species-poor taxa (especially those of relevance to those humans who financially support conservation efforts).  Not that I would be as inclined as some humans to lean toward conservation of certain butterflies or birds just because they are "attractive", but rather that taxa with relative few species that are threatened should have higher priority than taxa with many taxa.      For example, should we devote limited resources protecting any
 particular species of the genus Rattus?  Some may be endangered, but that genus is so species-rich that loss of any particular species is hardly to be compared with the loss of a species of any primate species (especially a species of great ape) or a monotypic bat family such as Craseonyctidae (which could disappear due to continued neglect).  With increasingly high extinction rates, we must make conservation decisions based on overall diversity, NOT merely numbers of species (some of which may have radiated rapidly recently but inevitably subject to natural extinction anyway because that is how natural selection works over the long term).  The potential extinction of a single species of great ape should be treated with more alarm than that of a dozen species of Rattus or other speciose genera of beetle, flies, or nematodes.  Making decisions on absolute numbers of species is short-sighted in my opinion.  So, "ivory-tower" strategies may be good if
 they concentrate on species-poor taxa, but not so good just because a particular researcher has a fascination with a species-rich group and simply has better connections that give them more access to federal research funding.  And some mammal species (wolves and polar bears) get way too much funding compared to other mammal species (especially compared to the southern hemisphere).  Funding priorites are still skewed in terms of both geography and diversity.    -------------------Ken Kinman    ---------------------------------------------------------Donat wrote:
May be we should give up this challenge and return to our ivory tower to
describe yet another exciting new life form that makes it into the main
media rather than get our acts together and act as a global observatory,
that is all our many research institutions (herbaria, natural history
collections, etc. and its main funders, the government) get together to
rethink on how to react to this grand challenge as a consortium.


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