News Round-Up

How do we know when a species at risk has recovered? It’s not just a matter of numbers


Around the world, animals and plants are disappearing at alarming rates. In May 2019, a major U.N. report warned that around one million species were at risk of extinction – more than at any other time in human history.

Conservation scientists like me focus on predicting and preventing extinctions. But we see that as an essential first step, not a final goal. Ultimately, we want species to recover.

The challenge is that while extinction is easy to define, recovery is not. Until recently, there was no general definition of a “recovered” species. As a result, some species recovery plans are much less ambitious than others, and scientists don’t have a common yardstick for recognizing conservation successes.

To address this challenge, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission – the world’s largest network of conservationists – is developing a Green List of Species to highlight species recovery. This tool will complement the well-known Red List, which highlights endangered species. MORE

Header image: The Kirtland’s Warbler was declared recovered in the U.S. in 2019, but will still rely on land managers to maintain stands of jack pine where it nests and control parasitic cowbirds that prey on it. Credit: Joel Trick/USFWS, CC BY.

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