After reading some articles on conservation triage for my masters course I’ve decided to jump back a bit to when I was talking about species extinction… It is estimated that the world is currently losing species at up to 1000 times the natural rate*1. We can only assume that this rate will to increase as we force more and more ecological change through human induced global warming. In many cases of species extinction (and impacts on biodiversity) a process of ecological triage is enacted. Ecological triage refers to the conservation prioritisation of species that provide unique or necessary function to ecosystems, and the abandonment of those that do not have unique ecosystems roles*2. However as we often don’t know exactly how species interact with each other and the environment, and therefore may make mistakes when prioritising species conservation. Dr Joseph Alcamo, chief scientists of the UN Environment Program, says that it is too early to declare triage on these threatened species in the face of climate change and rapid biodiversity loss*3. Instead he believe we should focus on the key drivers of extinction (like deforestation) which have an impacts on the entire ecosystem, which will have the knock-on effect of conserving those species.
*1 Is conservation triage just smart decision making? By Bottrill, Joseph, Carwardine, Bode, Cook, Game, Grantham, Kark, Linke, McDonald-Madden, Pressey, Walker, Wilson and Possingham.
*2 Classics: Ecological Triage by Bradshaw on Conservation Bytes.
*3 Too early for nature ‘triage’: scientist by Arup from The Age.