Since the Endangered Species Preservation Act was signed into law in 1966, local and global endangered species lists have emerged as useful tools for protecting threatened animal and plant populations. Prioritizing resources is essential, however, and local situations don’t always reflect global realities — a species could be threatened in one area but plentiful overall, or locally plentiful but in danger worldwide.
A 2010 paper from researchers at Michigan State University, Cornell University, and other institutions, “Global Versus Local Conservation Focus of U.S. State Agency Endangered Bird Species Lists,” highlights the challenges of coordinating small-scale and large-scale endangered-species lists. The study was published in PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed, open-access online publication.
Central to the researchers’ work is the concept of “responsibility.” It refers to a region’s capacity to sustain a particular species and the proportion of the global population that occurs there. Some of a region’s species could be at high local risk, but low global risk; others are at low local risk, but high global risk; others are endangered both locally and globally, particularly if the population is small and concentrated in one region.
Key findings include:
- In 25 states, more than half of the species on local lists were at low risk globally.
- In 9 states, more than half of the species on local lists were at a high risk globally.
- Only 13 of 47 state lists (28%) included any bird species were at a high risk globally, yet low risk locally.
Overall, the researchers found that most state lists were dominated by species that represent local but not global conservation significance. The study concludes by weighing possible approaches to better prioritizing local lists to reflect global situations.
Tags: biodiversity, conservation