New Method Attempts to Determine Which Endangered Species Can Actually be Saved


Can we save this guy? Truthfully? Photo credit: suneko via Flickr/CC BY-SA

We already have some well-established methods we use to determine how healthy species are -- the International Union for Conservation of Nature's 'Red List' perhaps being the most widely used. But is it enough to know whether a species is vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, and so forth? Might not it be useful, for conservation purposes, how likely each of those species is to forestall extinction? A group of researchers believes so, and they're seeking to put the new method, called safe into action. Here's Mongabay:

Researchers have developed a new method to predict how close species are to extinction. Dubbed SAFE (Species Ability to Forestall Extinction) the researchers believe the new tool ... should help conservationists select which species to focus on saving and which, perhaps controversially, should be let go.

"The idea is fairly simple--it's the distance a population is (in terms of abundance) from its minimum viable population size. While we provide a formula for working this out, it's more than just a formula--we've shown that SAFE is the best predictor yet of the vulnerability of mammal species to extinction," co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw, Director of Ecological Modeling at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute, says ...

The new method isn't meant to replace the well-established IUCN endangered species metric, simply to augment it. And the truth is, a measure like SAFE, as depressing as its very existence may be, is probably necessary. Unless there's some great global paradigm shift, and human beings stop consuming resources and food at ravenous rates -- and changing the climate in the process -- we're going to have to face the fact that we've doomed thousands upon thousands of species to extinction (happy Friday!).

That's why scientists have taken to calling the incoming age the Anthropocene era, and refer to the current drop in biodiversity as the '6th Extinction' -- because good ol' mankind is doing as much to vanquish the world's flora and fauna as any giant meteor ever did. So, more accurate ways of determining which species we can salvage from this great man-caused shipwreck might an all-important tool in conservation decision-making. That is, unless we can all collectively agree to stop consuming and destroying every natural resource in sight ... Nah, didn't think so.

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