Saving threatened species may not help biodiversity

A new study suggests that protecting threatened species may not save biodiversity, contrary to a widely held belief that targeting key species will preserve ecosystems.

When scientists from the University of Sheffield modelled efforts to protect Southern African birds, they found conservation strategies to fall short, particularly with regard to other bird species that were not proportionally distributed within the protected area.

The study, published in the latest issue of Ecology Letters, cast doubts on the belief that focusing on the protection of threatened and endemic species will preserve all species through the maintenance of habitats.

The scientists warn that while it is tempting to assume that conservation projects offer an effective umbrella for a country’s species, the selection of areas to be protected does not guarantee representation of bird species diversity. They also suggest that singling out species may not be compatible with the provisions of the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity.

The chief executive of the Natural Environmental Research Council recently suggested that setting aside 4 % more land for conservation could preserve 50% of the world’s species (see related story).

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