As part of the Conservation Science Mid-Term Conference, Peter Foster introduced the class to the concept of conservation triage in his talk “Conservation Triage: Admission of failure or just smart science?”.
Currently, our world is facing the potential extinction of over one third of its biodiversity according to the IUCN. However, it has been acknowledged that there may not be enough resources available to save all endangered and threatened species [2,3].
In the 1980s it was suggested that the concept of triaging could be applied to this crisis [4,5,6]. The word triage usually refers to prioritizing the care of the most grievously wounded individual in a crisis situation where limited resources are available . In the case of conservation, this would require a set of criteria to define priority species to for resource allocation. There are concerns, though, that this approach means intentionally allowing the extinction of some species . However, this approach is still concerned with saving as many species as possible but advocates doing so by focusing first on where the most good can be done .
The prioritization of some species or areas over others is already inadvertently a part of many conservation initiatives and programs. A former vice president of the Defenders of Wildlife organization, has commented that American conservation funds tend to be preferentially devoted to charismatic species. The Alliance for Zero Extinction, while claiming to believe the triage approach is unnecessarily defeatist , have created a list of 588 priority conservation sites .
There have been several proposed methods create a prioritization of endangered and threatened species. Bottrill et al., suggested the idea of weighing a species value, biodiversity benefit, and probability of successful recovery against the cost of saving the species . The London Zoological Society proposes saving “Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species.” . This would prioritize species who had few closely related species in existence along with the species threat level . This is the approach our speaker favours and ended his talk by saying he “believed in saving the weird and wonderful.”
By Emma Fox
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- Bottrill, M. C., Joseph, L. N., Carwardine, J., Bode, M., Cook, C., Game, E. T., & Possingham, H. P. (2009). Finite conservation funds mean triage is unavoidable. Update, 24(4).
- Nijhuis, M. (2012). Which species will live?. Scientific American, 307(2), 74-79.
- Parr, M. J., Bennun, L., Boucher, T., Brooks, T., Chutas, C. A., Dinerstein, E., & Molur, S. (2009). Why we should aim for zero extinction. Update, 24(4)
- Zero Extinction Alliance (ZEA). (2015). OVERVIEW. Retrieved 23 October 2015, from http://www.zeroextinction.org/overviewofaze.htm
- Bottrill, M. C., Joseph, L. N., Carwardine, J., Bode, M., Cook, C., Game, E. T., & Possingham, H. P. (2008). Is conservation triage just smart decision making?. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23(12), 649-654.
- EDGE of Existence. (2015). EDGE of Existence. Retrieved 23 October 2015, from http://www.edgeofexistence.org/
- Isaac, N. J., Turvey, S. T., Collen, B., Waterman, C., & Baillie, J. E. (2007). Mammals on the EDGE: conservation priorities based on threat and phylogeny.PLoS One, 2(3), e296