List of species under threat 'flawed'

December 19, 2003

The red list that identifies endangered species itself risks extinction unless the scientific methodology that underpins it is radically changed, a leading conservation biologist has warned.

Nicholas Mrosovsky, the British emeritus professor of zoology at the University of Toronto, Canada, argues in a report published last week that the credibility of system operated by IUCN, The World Conservation, is at stake.

The red list is compiled by an array of volunteer expert panels comparing the latest scientific data to the IUCN's criteria.

It is used by scientists, campaigning groups and governments as the bedrock of many initiatives and regulations to protect plants and animals from extinction.

But Professor Mrosovsky, a former chairman of the IUCN expert panel on marine turtles, said: "It should be thoroughly overhauled or replaced by a new system, perhaps operated by a different organisation."

He argues that there is inconsistency in the approach to different groups of organisms, often insufficient scientific documentation to justify particular categorisations and a lack of transparency about the process.

Some species, he concludes, should be removed from the list as the available evidence suggested that they were not on the brink of oblivion, as might be surmised from their category.

In his report, Predicting Extinction: Fundamental Flaws in IUCN's Red List System , Professor Mrosovsky focuses much of his analysis on marine turtles.

He points out that the hawksbill had been listed as critically endangered - a definition that means the species faces "an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future" - even though the expert group responsible for making the recommendation had stated that "the species is not expected to become extinct in the foreseeable future".

Brendan Godley, Natural Environment Research Council fellow at the University of Exeter and a marine turtle specialist, acknowledged many of the general criticisms aimed at the red list by Professor Mrosovsky.

The full report is at http://members.seaturtle.org/mrosovsky/

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns