Developing and Testing Methods for Classifying Species Conservation Status and Estimating Risk

Principal Investigator(s): 

Mark Burgman and Sandy Andelman

Decisions about species conservation status have critical implications for allocation of public and private funding, land use planning decisions, and regulatory actions. Currently, a broad range of methods is used to classify species conservation status at a variety of geographic scales (e.g., local, national, international). Different methods produce very different results, yet there is no rationale or benchmark for judging their adequacy or appropriateness. Existing systems also are incomplete because they lack rules that allow decisions to be made when the data are uncertain. No systematic testing of any such system has been undertaken.

This Working Group will synthesize and evaluate existing protocols for classifying species conservation status applied in the United States, Australia, and internationally. The team will measure the performance in three ways:

  1. Comparing classifications resulting from individual protocols with assessments of extinction risk from detailed population and metapopulation studies for specific species
  2. Comparing classifications with simulations of hypothetical species for which underlying dynamic processes are known
  3. Comparing classifications with the conservation outcomes for a large number of existing species, for which some populations have gone extinct

The synthesis of these lines of evidence will allow this Working Group to critically evaluate the current techniques, and to recommend new approaches and testing procedures.

Photo Credit: World Wildlife Foundation

More information about this project