World-leading scientists develop new approach to bird conservation

Secretary bird

We find that the highly distinct and endangered species often occur far away from places that are species-rich or already otherwise on conservation’s radar. In addition to targeted conservation action thus a better monitoring of species' changing distributions is vital.

Professor Walter Jetz, Yale University

World-wide, nearly 600 species of birds are currently in danger of becoming extinct. As human development pressures and environmental changes continue to threaten habitats, the need for proactive avian conservation is increasing.

This new approach to conservation, led by Walter Jetz, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University, in collaboration with Dr Gavin Thomas from the University of Sheffield, relies on an idea called evolutionary distinctiveness to prioritise which endangered birds should receive particular conservation or research attention.

The results identified areas where maximum conservation of the avian tree of life can be achieved with relatively small investment. Among the targeted areas for future conservation are regions of Australia, Indonesia, Brazil, and Madagascar. Conservationists are already taking notice of the new approach.

The Zoological Society of London's (ZSL) EDGE of existence program focuses on targeted conservation of evolutionarily unique species, such as those identified in the research.

The new quantitative methods for identifying unique species at risk have provided the EDGE of existence program with a stronger framework for their fundraising and avian conservation efforts, according to the study’s lead authors, who have worked closely with ZSL over the past 5 years.

The international research team involved in the study are: Dr Jeffrey B. Joy and Dr Arne O. Mooers from Simon Fraser University, Canada, Dr David W. Redding from University College London, and Dr Klaas Hartmann from the University of Tasmania, Australia

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Dr Gavin Thomas