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)