[Taxacom] Conservation

Ken Kinman kinman at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 26 23:38:58 CDT 2012

Hi Stephen,     Agreed, a mixture of both strategies would be best.  However, at present there is too much emphasis on particular taxa that are the favorites of researchers with the inside track on funding.  Those studying wolves or polar bears can still get excessive funding to keep renting helicopters to basically repeatedly harass, trap, collar, and "study" them over and over again for decades, while other taxa are ignored.  Another field that is even more over-funded is dinosaur research, just because people find them fascinating.  Dinosaurs may draw some young people into the field of biology, but that does not justify the excessive spending of funds on dinosaur research rather than studying species which are still living.  I still believe that dinosaur specimens should be preserved in museums, but the extremely time-consuming process of preparing huge dinosaur carnivores and herbivores should be put off until the future, and that more of those biologists should be encouraged to study poorly-studied species of living species (and I am not talking about wolves and polar bears which have been studied excessively), but especially taxa that are neglected (even if the masses do not find them as interesting).  No wonder the phylogeny of invertebrate phyla is so poorly understood.            ------------------Ken  

-------------------------------------------------------------Stephen wrote: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 <kin... at hotmail.com>
To: taxa... 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    		 	   		  

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