AboutZoos, Since 2008


New way to pre­dict the chance of a species going extinct

pub­lished 24 August 2011 | mod­i­fied 10 April 2011

A new instru­ment has been devel­oped to help con­ser­va­tion­ists bet­ter under­stand how close species are to extinc­tion. This instru­ment, the SAFE index, has been devel­oped by Aus­tralian researchers from the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide and James Cook University.

SAFE stands for Species Abil­ity to Fore­stall Extinc­tion and it mea­sures how close species are to their min­i­mum viable pop­u­la­tion size. It must be con­sid­ered an adjunct to the Inter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threat­ened Species, not a replace­ment. The IUCN Red List is arguably the most pop­u­lar mea­sure of rel­a­tive species threat, but its threat cat­e­gories can be ambigu­ous (e.g. Endan­gered ver­sus Vul­ner­a­ble) and sub­jec­tive, have weak quan­tifi­ca­tion, and do not con­vey the threat sta­tus of species in rela­tion to a min­i­mum viable pop­u­la­tion target.

The researchers argue that they have shown that SAFE is the best pre­dic­tor yet of the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of mam­mal species to extinc­tion. The SAFE index shows that not all Crit­i­cally Endan­gered species are equal. A com­bined approach, using the IUCN Red List threat cat­e­gories together with the SAFE index, is more infor­ma­tive than the IUCN cat­e­gories alone, and pro­vides a good method for esti­mat­ing the rel­a­tive safety of a species from extinc­tion. There­fore, it could be a use­ful tool for con­ser­va­tion­ists to chan­nel their efforts, dri­ven by resource lim­i­ta­tions or the wish to increase suc­cess rates.

(Source: Sci­enceDaily, 10.04.2011)

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